Evoking Emotion: Digital PR Tip #4 Earned Media

In their 2011 State of the Media report Pew Research predicted that the sharing of news content would be the one factor that has the most impact on the news industry in the next decade.

Most of the content gets shared on Facebook – 2011 saw this figure increase from 44% to 52% of all content shared online.

Facebook reported 1 billion items shared a week in July 2011.  That number had doubled by September, and then came a big jump to 3.5 billion in December, and another to 5 billion a month later.  Later in 2011 Facebook reported that the number had grown to 7.5 billion a week.  That’s a lot of sharing.

What does sharing have to do with earned media mentions?  A large part of what gets shared online is news content.  Bloggers publishing and sharing your news is a part of your earned media mentions today.

What makes people share content?  Emotion.

The press release that starts out “ABC company today announced that…” won’t get shared, unless what is announced is truly new and exciting and evokes some kind of emotion.

Now that the online media world is so visual, it’s imperative to tell your story visually and use the images and video to evoke that emotion.  Journalists and bloggers know that content that will evoke emotion in their readers will get shared – and that grows their audience and their following online.

Facebook’s study on the most shared news items in 2011 shows that the content shared ranges from “cute to thought provoking.” Number one on the list was images of the aftermath of the tsunami in Japan.  And of course those were loaded with the full gamut of emotions. Next was an article in CNN titled “What teachers really want to tell parents,” an emotional appeal from a teacher to parents.

How can this help you increase your earned media? Aren’t press releases supposed to be fact driven?  Yes, they are.  But that doesn’t mean your facts can’t evoke emotion.  The stories about the tsunami were filled with facts – facts that shocked us and made us cry.

Can this apply to a business-to-business story?  Look for the angle that evokes emotion for the audience you want to reach.  Nothing could be less interesting than concrete cutting, right?  No possibility of emotion there.  Yet a company that does work in the San Francisco Bay area managed to pull this off.

They did the reinforcing of the columns in the historic quad at Stanford University during the seismic retrofitting.  The work required a new drill to be developed that could core the columns of sandstone without damaging them. Each column had to have the decorative stones removed and numbered, the column core drilled out and reinforced and then the stones replaced in exact order.  When you walk into the quad today you would never know that this work has been done.

The story got a lot of attention in the Bay area.  Stanford is an icon.  The work was vital to the continued existence of this historic quad.  Yet no one knew it had been done, or how it had been done, or the innovation that went into making it possible.  When people read that story they went “WOW!  That’s amazing.”  And they shared it with others.

There’s an interesting story in every business.  It might not be your story, it might be your customer’s story.  You just have to find it.  And tell it so that it evokes emotion in the audience.

Read the other tips in the series

10 Digital PR Tips for More Earned Media

Tip #1  Finding Brand Ambassadors

Tip # 2  Use multimedia to tell stories

Tip # 3  Newsjacking

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