Earned Media Drives Greatest Influence

Today’s savviest PR professionals are obsessed with how people get their news. In media relations we are tasked with securing headlines for clients. Our approach is to get inside the minds of newsmakers (editors, reporters, producers) and learn how journalists consume news, what sources they trust and how they sell their own stories. At Ogilvy PR, I lead a national team of media experts who speak with reporters day in and day out, which gives us unique access to speak with top journalists and learn what tools they use and what influences them in a rapidly changing media world.

In June 2015, Ogilvy PR’s media influence team fielded a survey of 118 North American and U.K. based journalists in print, broadcast and social media who cover a variety of topics. The key finding the survey unearthed is that although social media has quickly emerged as a powerful platform for journalists to gather news, traditional media continues to reign supreme as the most trusted news source. Read on for additional results what we learned should be revealing to PR professionals and our clients.

Social as a News Engine

The rise of social media gets most attention today, but the survey gave credence to old-fashioned newspaper and wire services, such as AP and Reuters. When asked where they primarily obtain their news, social media was the most common answer (35%), beating out newspapers (33%), newswires (12%), and TV and radio (11%). But when it came to questions of trustworthiness and influence in driving purchasing decisions and business outcomes, traditional media ranked number one.

Trust in Traditional

The source for information is crucial, and earned stories in traditional news sources are the most trusted. In simple terms, earned media cannot be bought or owned, it is “earned” organically. The findings from our survey support a recent Nielsen study that also found that earned media is the most trusted source of information worldwide. Traditional outlets would be wise to maintain high standards of credibility, while at the same time amplifying their output on social media.

Media are Weary of Company Driven News

A noteworthy result from the survey is that company-driven news was the least trusted source of information. Press releases, company blogs, and branded websites have limited value. Brand managers must acknowledge while it’s essential to have these elements, and they must be up to date and factual, these pieces alone will not build trust. Once again, earned media’s value is reinforced, and points to the validity of third party credibility, particularly when it’s the opinion of an independent outsider, which leads us to the final lesson we drew from the survey.

An Integrated Model is the Answer

Put all these findings together for a successful communications environment. Earned media supplemented with third-party influencers and distributed on social media channels will boost trustworthiness and increase eyeballs. Used strategically, traditional and new media are symbiotic elements of a communications ecosystem crucial to reaching audiences and making impact.

The survey’s results give a clear indication of the critical role that public relations – and earned media in particular – has to play within the integrated marketing model. Utilizing social media to spread the word, and earned media serving as one of the most efficient and cost effective ways to build trust, organizations can use this model to build brand equity, grow sales and increase market share.

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