Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Is earned media still a viable healthcare marketing strategy?

With everyone a buzz about social media, web sites, apps, channel specific publications, blogs, YouTube, twitter etc., and the supposed decline of print media, is chasing earned media still worth the effort? It does seem, except for pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers, that earned media is on the decline for other types of healthcare organizations. And the reasons why puzzles me.

Is earned media to hard?

In any brand marketing campaign, its easy to focus on the "hot button" techniques to show the CEO and Board, that you are up-to-date and executing your marketing with the latest and greatest. Make no mistake about it, earned media is hard. You have to develop relationships with reporters. You have to plant and cultivate story ideas. You have to respond to reporters request for more information. It takes time. It takes patience. It takes resources, in a period of time where all we ask on a daily basis is, "What did you do for me today?"

And in the pressures of today's immediate gratification world, earned media seems so anachronistic.

That's a mistaken attitude.

Earned media has value.

All that content that goes online comes from somewhere. A reporter has to write it. A network broadcaster has to cover it. Columnists look for it. It goes out on facebook, web sites, YouTube, twitter and gasp, print editions of magazines, daily newspapers and specialty publications.

Since it comes under the byline of a reporter, there naturally flows some journalistic credibility that is conferred on the story. The more people say that they don't believe what they read, the more that they believe it. We are expected to advertise. We are expected to do direct mail. Communication of our brand messages and potential product experiences are expected by the consumer. Whether they believe it or not is another matter.

Earned media can become viral in nature because it has so many different outlets. When a news outlet or publication carries your brand messages, it makes what you are doing seem more believable. Once they story runs about a topic and you're the first, it's much harder for your competitors to get out there with the same message. A powerful way to differentiate yourself which also has a considerable number of aftermarket uses.

There is a payoff.

Besides the advertising equivalency return for earned media ratio and successful brand image awareness measurement, there is a compelling reason for developing earned media relationships.

Every organization will experience a communications crisis. Taking the time to develop positive relationships with reporters, blog writers, broadcast media and others has a big payoff in a media driven crisis. The development and cultivation of a relationship with media doesn't mean that the story won't run. But what it can mean, is the difference between a story that is balanced and fairly reported, versus a story that is one-sided against you. As we all know, negative news about travels farther and faster than positive news, which does more harm than good over the long haul.

So, maybe it's time to rethink that "old bygone era strategy" of actively planning for and pursuing earned media.

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For more information, or to discuss your strategic healthcare marketing, customer experience management, marketing/sales integration or start-up needs, you can learn more at my web site the michael J group; email- ; or phone by calling me at 815-293-1471.

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