3 Signs Earned Media Might Not Be Right for Your Organization

December 15, 2021

Earned media can be an extremely valuable tool for many organizations to tell their story, build credibility and advance their reputation. Favorable news coverage can grow awareness in ways that can attract investors, build business prospects and motivate employees.

However, unless you are prepared to accept outcomes that may not perfectly aligned with your vision and can’t be entirely controlled, a proactive media program may not be right for you. Read on for perfectly legitimate reasons why earned media might not be the right tactic for your organization.

Your Brand Identity is Not Well Defined

Is your target market well-defined? Do you have a mission that’s easily articulated? Without clear messages about your organization’s value proposition and purpose, you may not be ready to pursue media coverage. Having a distinct brand identity tells a reporter in advance what your organization stands for well before an interview starts. It also gives you a guiding north star when communicating with the media, to target the right audience and share relevant key messages.

One example of success is WCG client, Living Water International. There are many nonprofits that focus on providing aid and clean water around the world, so it was important for Living Water to have a clearly defined mission and areas of service when it launched in 1990. With this strong foundation, we were able to easily initiate a timely, impactful COVID-19 Public Health campaign in 2020 to elevate Living Water’s reputation as a leading WASH (water, access, sanitation, hygiene) non-governmental organization. Journalists from more 15 international media outlets were eager to how how Living Water was uniquely approaching hygiene management in ways different from other humanitarian organizations.

You Want to Control the Narrative

Can earned media programs result in negative coverage? You bet! Facebook’s switch to Meta was described as ‘dystopian’ and ‘a bad idea’ by many news outlets when Facebook first launched the brand at its Connect 2021 conference – not the outcome their C-suite was no doubt seeking.

When it comes to media coverage, the final product will be filtered through the independent lens and perspective of another person, which may not sit well with organizational leadership or culture. If so, owned or paid strategies are a better tool, especially if you want to control the public narrative. Consider placing a press release or article on your website or buying advertising, which will enable you to share exact messaging, generate leads, and potentially get your brand in front of new audiences.

You Lack Newsworthy Content

In considering earned media, there is a simple truth: journalists are not an advertising department. Their role is to inform, educate and entertain with stories that are interesting and sometimes provocative. If your organization isn’t ready to be bold, take a contrarian point of view or share innovative ideas to add to the ongoing conversation, journalists are less likely to be interested.

For example, any organization sharing its remote work plan today would find no appetite for the story among journalists. But in 2020, when COVID-19 was the center of media coverage, Twitter became the first major tech company to announce remote work. The news captured the media’s attention. While you don’t have to be Twitter to earn The Wall Street Journal’s attention, you do have to find the right story and newsjacking moment for your business.

Wherever your organization stands on the spectrum of interest in earned media, consider an agency partnership to investigate the possibilities. Contact us at to align your goals with a personalized integrated communications plan.


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