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3 Reasons Why Your Nonprofit Should Create an Earned Media Plan

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Earned media is a crucial and beneficial tool for your marketing communications arsenal. But what exactly is it? To put it in simple terms, earned media is getting someone else to talk about your organization. Paid media is advertising, and owned media is your website, blog, social media channels, etc. Marketing is saying you’re good, but public relations, or earned media, is getting someone else to say you’re good.

With that in mind, here are 3 reasons why your nonprofit should create and leverage an earned media plan:

1. Distribute content and amplify your nonprofit’s reach and mission

The best way to increase the reach of your content and your mission is by leveraging earned media. Press releases are one tool in your storytelling bag. But if leveraged correctly, they can be a very powerful tool. An earned media plan can help guide your messaging and how it can enhance and expand your mission. Positive media exposure from your press releases not only informs the public about what you tell them through your writing, but it increases general brand awareness for your nonprofit. When you include your main message and core messages in your plan, it’s important to think about how the content you’re distributing can amplify your mission.

It’s also important to think about how the information you’re sharing relates back to the readers:  your constituents, donors, people in your community, volunteers, people interested in your mission, potential donors, etc. Think about the audience each press release is directed to when you’re drafting out the main overarching message in your plan, and don’t be too “we” focused. Show how the value in the information you’re sharing is relevant and relates back to the reader.

Pro tip: cross-promote your press releases on your owned channels (website, social media, blog) for even greater reach. You can also reach out to or tweet at other influencers in your community, or those who’ve previously assisted your nonprofit, and encourage them to share your pieces.

2. Build brand credibility and loyalty

As constituents see your organization’s mission and impact shared, they will be more likely to remember you the next time they want to make a donation to a charity. The more visible your nonprofit becomes the more credible you appear, AND the more loyal your constituents will be to your mission. An earned media plan will help you research and leverage the appropriate media contacts to reach out to for each press release and core message within in. It should also help you segment and direct your pitch emails to each contact. Your press release is more likely to get picked up, and picked up more frequently, if you reach out to the right people with the right message.

Use your earned media plan to guide the purpose behind each press release and the stories or research you’re trying to share. Sharing impact, research, and your nonprofit’s unique perspective are crucial for building credibility and loyalty. Try to find ways to show your organization as a thought leader in your industry.  

3. Encourage sustainability and drive results

Earned media has better ROI and is more cost effective than paid media or online advertising. The reach of a story can grow faster and its lifespan can increase more easily through earned media. It can sometimes create a snowball effect of cross-promotion and increased media impressions if it’s picked up by more and more news outlets as its reach grows. Given the right circumstances, earned media has the potential to grow beyond even what you planned or hoped. That continual promotion by influencers can help your nonprofit’s earned media efforts be sustainable, and in turn, your nonprofit’s mission. After all, that’s always what drives each press release and outreach effort.

If you use a custom URL to a specific landing page in your press release, or have a specific, trackable call-to-action, you’ll easily be able to see and monitor the results of your earned media efforts. Not only that, but you can see who’s picked up your story. Those sites that have picked it up should be able to give you analytics on how many impressions or page views your story has received. Outside of using a platform like Google Analytics or Moz to track impressions, page views, or backlinks, you could also search for the headline of your press release to see if anyone else has picked it up and monitor how well the stories rank. If you’re familiar with search engine optimization (SEO) at all, try to include SEO tips and best practices in your plan so your press releases are written with it in mind. It can give your online pieces a longer life cycle.

At the end of the day, the most important purpose behind an earned media plan is to help you think about why you want to share something. What value are you trying to convey and what do you hope to get from earned media? The answer to this question and your purpose should always drive any content you put out there, whether earned or owned.

Need help getting started with an earned media plan? DOWNLOAD THIS SAMPLE NONPROFIT EARNED MEDIA PLAN for a starting point.

How could your nonprofit benefit from using an earned media plan? Let me know in the comments below!

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