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 airtime on radio or TV.

You're in a race not just with everybody else trying to get earned media, but with breaking 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.

  1. How NOT to write a plan for earned media
    It's a mistake to start thinking about products and process first. "Let's do a press release about X, and then maybe an op-ed and a speaking tour."

    Think about how to reach your audiences. Then start thinking about products and plans to do that job.
  2. Cover all your bases
    If you only focus on newspapers, you'll miss a giant chunk of the population who only listen to the radio, and another big slice of your audience who rely on television for their news and entertainment.

    See this related post on why if you're not on TV -- or radio -- you don't exist.

    Your plan has to include ideas for reaching out to every form of mass media: 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.

    That won't work with earned media. You have to think like a reporter.

    Why is this story worth covering? Is it truly interesting news, unique and fresh -- or is it stale and self-serving?

  1. Figure out who does what
    Who's writing the material and pitch it to journalists?

    Does that person need approval of final drafts from somebody higher up the chain of command?

    Who can shoot photos? Who's good as a spokesperson if TV cameras show up, or if you have to hold a press conference? Who can shoot video and post it on YouTube?

    Don't let the process become bureaucratic, because it will take longer and make whatever news you do get out the door stale.

    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 in Manhattan on a business trip, or stuck in an all-day meeting with an even bigger boss?