How to Write a Media Plan for Earned Media

Mapping out how you're going to get earned media

Earned Media
Getty Images / Paul Bradbury

In public relations, you have to rely on earned media instead of paid advertising.

So your media plan can't be as surgically exact as what the marketing people can do. They can target women over 35 in specific zip codes with a direct mail piece, or advertise on sports radio stations that cater to blue-collar men.

Instead, you've got to earn your press coverage, and this is never guaranteed. There's a lot of competition for column inches in the newspaper and air time on radio or TV.

You're in a race not just with everybody else trying to get earned media, but with breaking the news the media has to cover, and there's no way to predict when earthquakes will strike or a political scandal will dominate the news for weeks. Follow these tips for writing an effective media plan and you'll end up being a rock star.

  1. How NOT to Write a Plan for Earned Media
    It's a mistake to start thinking about products and process first. What you need to do instead is to think about how to reach your audiences. After that, you can start thinking about products and develop a strategic plan to accomplish your job.
  2. Cover all Your Bases
    If you only focus on (let's say) newspapers, you'll miss a giant chunk of the population who only listen to the radio or watch television to get their news and be entertained. See this related post on why if you're not on TV (or radio) you don't exist. Remember, your media plan has to include ideas and strategies for reaching out to every form of mass media and that includes newspapers, magazines, blogs, radio, and television.

  1. Think Like a Reporter
    If you write a plan from your perspective or the point of view of your boss, it will be about your needs and wants and that won't work with earned media. You have to think like a reporter. Ask yourself why the story is worth covering. Ask yourself if it is interesting news or unique and fresh, or if it is it stale and self-serving.

  1. Figure out who Does What
    You need to know who is writing which stories and pitch your ideas, to.that journalist. You also need to know who is allowed to take photos and who is a good TV spokesperson. And be sure if you hold a press conference that you choose someone (not just responsible who'll show up) but someone photogenic. You also need to know if the video you have can be posted on online.

    In your planning, do whatever you can to identify and eliminate bottlenecks. If there's only one person writing everything, what happens when that person takes a two-week vacation, becomes a father or mother and is out six weeks, or takes a different job?

    And, if there's only one boss who can approve material before it goes out, what happens if they're out of town on a business trip, or stuck in an all-day meeting?