When promoting a science-related brand, you want to showcase expertise and position your key team members as thought leaders in their field. While a range of marketing tactics can support these goals, using a combination of public relations and well-placed advertorials is especially effective.
PR placements help gain visibility and establish thought leadership in a non-promotional way, while advertorials offer the opportunity to share your message – including your marketing message – directly with a relevant audience.
In marketing and PR, you often hear about the “media mix.” There are variations in the terminology used to describe the media mix. People commonly distinguish between paid media, owned media, earned media, and sometimes shared media.
- Paid media is any exposure you directly pay for, such as advertisements and advertorials. These are placed in print, broadcast or online media channels.
- Owned media is anything your organization self-publishes, like your website, brochures, blog, podcasts, or any other media you fully own and control.
- Earned media refers to any coverage you receive in print, broadcast, and online media that you do not pay for. In other words, you earned the coverage.
- Some use a variation of the term “shared media” for social media, since it is in many ways a modern hybrid of paid, owned, and earned media. While you can directly control the message within community standards, you never fully own your social media profiles. It is more shared than owned media.
Understanding this mix puts you in the position to strategically combine earned media with a specific form of paid media known as an advertorial. Let’s discuss each of these tactics in detail.
How Earned Media is at the Core of Thought Leadership
As I mentioned above, earned media refers to unpaid placements in media. Examples of earned media may include times when your CEO is featured in a business magazine, a trade journal requests your participation in their articles or asks for an article on a particular subject, or when a team member is a guest on an industry podcast or webcast.
Public relations typically focus on cultivating earned media, which reinforces credibility, builds awareness, and helps establish specific professionals on your team as “thought leaders and experts.”
Cultivating relationships with reporters and other media professionals is essential to earning frequent media exposure. This goes deeper than just sending a generic press release. It involves direct outreach to specific reporters and building relationships. Over time, these reporters and editors will think of your company or particular members of your team whenever they need expert insights or quotes on relevant topics.
The resulting earned exposure may range from long-form feature articles, reporting on a new publication or patent, or the inclusion of a quote in an article. For example, we receive many requests from publications that do roundup articles on a particular topic. They’ll reach out and ask, “We’re doing an article on biosimilars. Does one of your clients want to be part of that article?” For us, the answer is always yes! This exposure gives validity to what our clients do every day. That’s an earned media situation.
In addition to building relationships with members of the press, pitching them specific article topics helps better manage the earned exposure. Writers, reporters, editors and podcasters are always looking for new ideas – after all, they are in the “news” business. Since these media professionals are likely not experts in your highly specialized field, they may appreciate well-crafted pitches for specific topics worthy of coverage. It is important to remember that earned media requires the topic to be something the industry is interested in and is non-promotional.
Pro tip: Be careful to wait until your organization is ready for exposure and scrutiny. When done correctly, PR builds awareness of your organization, goodwill, and credibility. When done before you are ready, it can have a negative impact. While you may wait to start reaching out to reporters until the right time, it helps to begin implementing the strategies early. A good PR consultant can help you establish a strong foundation, so you present the right image from the start.
Earned media creates broader public awareness of what you are doing and why. Also, because you’ve established a presence, the press pays attention when you have a message to share, and they are more likely to accept your pitch.
This was a simplified version of how earned media works. Despite all its strengths, most marketing departments find they need a mix of media to reach their marketing goals. A specific form of paid media known as an “advertorial” can work well in cooperation with earned media.
Leveraging Advertorials for Thought Leaders
An advertorial refers to paid or sponsored content published in an established print, broadcast, or online publication. An advertorial is like a TV infomercial – without the overacting and manufactured drama. However, when representing a science-based brand, you likely want to take a more nuanced and information-based approach.
When placing an advertorial, you choose an outlet or publication that already reaches your desired audience. The actual content will mirror the style and quality of editorial content in the same publication, but shares your message directly.
Fusing Elements of Paid and Earned Media: The Advertorial
While earned media is an excellent source of social proof, you can’t directly control the message. The writer or reporter will ask questions based on their interests and create the content they feel would interest their readers. With paid placement, you more directly control the message. The copywriter works for you with the sole goal of helping get your message across.
Advertorials offer the opportunity to share more sophisticated messaging with your ideal audience. It typically reads like a high-quality article. Any legitimate publication or outlet labels it as sponsored content, but readers may still read it if the topic catches their interest. Trade publications reach an influential and well-informed audience. Many of these same publications have programs for sponsored content.
While an advertorial is very different from editorial content (earned media), both offer the opportunity to build awareness for your brand. With editorial content, the journalist knows the audience and will create informational content based on those interests. An advertorial is paid content that has a similar style to a short editorial article.
When the press comes to you with earned media opportunities, you need to remember that they’re very in tune with what the market wants to learn more about. On the upside, reporters can give you ideas that you can apply to your paid and owned media.
Pro Tip: One of these ideas might be an excellent topic for a white paper!
Integrated Marketing for Thought Leadership
Combining your PR outreach with advertorials is a simple version of integrated marketing and communications. However, the integration goes deeper than that. When it comes to building your reputation as a thought leader, cultivating earned media trains you to excel in integrating your other media – even your owned media.
You gain insights that feed into your owned media. Your team can then use these ideas to develop engaging, impactful white papers and blog posts for owned media as well as videos and social media posts for shared media.
Publishing sought-after and relevant content also has the added benefit of boosting your website’s organic SEO (search engine optimization). As your reputation grows, search engines like Google will place your content higher in search results for relevant search queries. SEO requires its own strategy, but many thought leaders in highly specialized niches find SEO benefits happen naturally as their profile grows.
Integrated marketing refers to all the interconnected parts of your public relations, content marketing, SEO, advertising, and social media activities. It involves a cohesive strategy where each aspect supports the others, building a consistent persona and “brand voice.”
This consistency further enhances your reputation as a thought leader in your field. Most science professionals are experts in their field of knowledge, but not in marketing or communicating with a broader audience. If you want to explore earned and paid media, give us a call today.
Brandwidth Solutions serves the healthcare, life sciences, technology, and contract pharma industries. We work with companies that want to make the most of their marketing – who want their marketing empowered to help drive leads – and ultimately sales. If you want to move your product or service forward in a smart way, we want to work with you. Call us at 215.997.8575.