All marketing must be earned media

I recently had a chance to address the executive board of one of our customers about a marketing topic of my choice. I spent a long time preparing my remarks — and even longer trying to figure out the solution to a problem that I thought would be worthy of their consideration.

I was extremely conscious about that presentation because I’d done the math: the cumulative time of the folks in that room was worth a lot of money. I really needed to justify taking it up.

This sentiment was reinforced this week at the Tech Marketing 360 conference, where I had the chance to hear from some amazing people, including Jeff Rohrs, who was there promoting his book Audience. (I haven’t read it yet, but if the book is nearly as compelling as his presentation, it will be well worth your time.)

In his talk, he spoke about the need to both develop and respect your audience. And he cited an authority of no less stature than The Boss, Bruce Springsteen, to drive home his point: you have to earn your audience every time you go in front of them.

Time is a finite resource

Historically, we marketers and advertisers haven’t been especially respectful of other people’s time. You look in your mail and there’s a pile of crap. You look in your inbox and there’s a pile of crap. You turn on the TV, and, in between what you want to see… another pile of crap. It would appear that we seem rather entitled to our audience.

Earned media vs. paid media

This terminology earned vs. paid speaks volumes about what we think of our audience. Earned media is what our good friends in PR provide by placing news stories in publications. Something people are presumably interested in reading.

Paid media? That’s advertising. And traditionally, the marketer’s attitude has been, “I paid for it, therefore I don’t have to earn it.” But what’s been paid for is actually just placement; we still need to earn our prospects’ attention.

Familiarity can help earn trust and loyalty, but it can also breed contempt. And much of advertising today deserves the contempt by which the public generally judges it, because it is totally disrespectful of people’s time and attention. The best way to earn trust and loyalty is by providing value.

All media should be earned

As marketers, this is the challenge that we face. There are a variety of techniques we use to improve the relevancy of our message  — including better segmentation, contextualization, customization, and quality content marketing — but, really, the question we have to ask ourselves is this: would I be willing to make my pitch, in person, eye to eye? Or would it be kind of… embarrassing? If you’d be too embarrassed to waste one person’s time in person, why are you doing it online at massive scale?

We need to create opportunities to build trust rather than attempting to just browbeat people into buying from us through repetition.

Everyone’s time is valuable.  Don’t waste it.

 

Rich Quarles

Rich Quarles

Rich is a marketing strategist focused primarily on startups, technology, and financial services. He has advised startups that have collectively returned almost $2 billion to founders and investors. Rich founded glassCanopy in 2001.
Rich Quarles

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