Earned Media: the supercharged marketing no money can buy

Last week, CNNMoney.com ran a story about the eight most business-friendly cities in the United States. Nashville came in at number six. This would be great news for Nashville businesses in any case, but it was especially great news for [meta]marketer because I was interviewed as a representative of Nashville, and my photo was chosen for the Nashville page in the story. The article even included a direct link to metamarketer.com. (Super-high authority inbound link, yay!)

Screenshot of CNNMoney.com article

Because of this and because of the local sharing and re-sharing of the story on social channels, our website saw a tremendous increase in traffic. I watched our site stats in real time over the first few days after the story went live, and there were a significant amount of visitors referred by CNNMoney.com on the site at any given time. But I also saw a notable amount of visitors from Facebook, and a rather generous amount of search traffic as well, most of which came in on phrases like “kate o’neill nashville” or “Marketing consultant Kate O’Neill” which was the caption under my photo in the story.

Looking at last week’s stats as a whole over the previous week, though, it’s especially interesting: we had a 289% increase in page views week over week. There was a 146% increase in new visitors, and even an 85% increase in returning visitors. Facebook brought in 375% more traffic last week than the prior week. Twitter, oddly, was down. (My best hypothesis to explain that one was that, for whatever reason, the @CNNMoney account¬†appears to never have tweeted a link to the story. Meanwhile, Facebook exploded with shared links to the article.)

Screenshot of visual.ly report

Screenshot of visual.ly report showing top-level website analytics results (I love their pretty formatting, and it’s a free service)

It’s not all idle traffic, either; we’ve had an increase in contacts from the website, as well. And as a leading indicator of contacts and interest, a great deal of the visitors followed very encouraging patterns of reviewing our set of services and our client list, which is a typical pattern visitors follow before contacting us.

Clearly, this is the kind of lift you really can’t buy. Or at least, most companies of our size would have a tough time budgeting and justifying. So some thanks are in order. I have the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce to thank for directing CNNMoney.com my way. I have Robbie Quinn to thank for jumping in and getting the perfect picture to anchor the story. I have Jose Pagliery to thank for writing the piece so engagingly.

Marketing folks like to call this type of exposure “earned media,” as opposed to “paid media,” which you buy, lease, or bid on, or “owned media,” which you create and distribute. So how do you “earn” attention? I’m no public relations expert, but as a reflective marketer and strategist, I can give you my perspective. The term itself is a little self-congratulatory, because I think some of it comes down to being in the right place at the right time. Not luck, exactly, but something like it. But there are certainly ways to improve your chances. It’s about specialization, yes, but more than that, it’s about where your passion authentically aligns. In my case, being an active and vocal proponent of Nashville as a tech and entrepreneurial center along with being an enthusiastic member of the Chamber of Commerce means a greater chance of being top of mind when an opportunity like this comes up. For you it might be a different combination of actions and criteria, but the important thing is, it has to be something you really stand behind, or you won’t have the persistence and consistency to create a presence that people associate with your cause or topic.

For example, last year I met a journalist named Lauren Sandler who writes about the phenomenon of choosing to have only one child, and she has a book out on the topic called “One and Only.” Yes, she’s a journalist herself, but I guarantee you she’s one of a short list of people anyone thinks to call when they want to write about only children.

So what are you passionate about? I’m passionate about smarter marketing, and that sometimes gets people interested enough to ask me questions, but I’m also passionate about Nashville and its growth and development, and because that’s been an increasingly popular topic, I’ve found myself increasingly having that discussion.

In other words, know your interests, and add substance to the ongoing conversations about them. If you do that consistently and with authentic enthusiasm, you will probably find yourself participating in that conversation in front of larger and larger audiences. Just be ready to click “refresh” on your site stats over and over. It’s addictive.

This entry was posted in news articles and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.