Donald Trump is the King of Earned Media
Donald Trump’s dominance of earned media is huge. No one else even comes close.
Yes, the President of the United States gets lots of news coverage regardless of who occupies the Oval Office. But the Trump phenomenon is much more than that. It’s a beast that feeds upon itself to get ever larger—stories about him get clicks, so media run more stories about him, which get more clicks, ad infinitum. (Did his name in the headline get you to read this post?) Throughout the primaries and the campaign leading up to the election, his opponents raised and spent much more money on advertising and conventional campaigning. Trump didn’t have to. He just kept talking and tweeting and both his supporters and detractors ate it up.
We’ve covered the difference between paid, earned, shared and owned media coverage in this space before, so as a refresher, I’ll just remind you that earned media is any coverage that you neither created nor paid for. In January, Donald Trump received the equivalent of $817 million in earned media coverage, according to mediaQuant, a firm that counts all mentions of a person or thing in traditional and new media and then comes up with an estimated dollar-figure for what that kind of coverage would cost as paid advertising.
In January, Trump received an estimated $817 million in coverage. By comparison, over the last four years of his term, Obama averaged between $200 million and $500 million in monthly earned media. Hillary Clinton’s coverage peaked at $430 million, and that was in July when the Democratic National Convention took place.
To demonstrate just the bigliness (that’s a word now, right?) of Trump’s earned media dominance, mediaQuant totaled the coverage for the world’s top 1,000 personalities, excluding Trump and Obama. The list includes both Clintons, Tom Brady (heading into his fifth Super Bowl victory), the ubiquitous Kardashians, everyone’s favorite oligarch Vladimir Putin and the Pope. The ad value of those 1,000 instantly recognizable names totaled only $721 million, or to put it another way, their collective star power is worth almost $100 million less in combined coverage than Trump alone.
This is not to suggest that your brand or personality will ever be able to trump the coverage that our current President has achieved. You have to remember that he’s been working at this since long before his first episode of The Celebrity Apprentice aired or anyone had conceived of Twitter. But his success at becoming the most famous person in the world does offer some lessons on the power of earned media and why it is an essential element of any successful communications strategy.
An interesting corollary to Trump’s position on top of the earned-media mountain has been the rise of “fake news” and its impact on earned media. In February, mediaQuant found that banking reform, terrorism and national security were the only topics to draw more coverage mentions than fake news. The estimated value for that coverage was more than $270 million.
How earned media continues to evolve in the age of “alternative facts” will be interesting to watch. Maybe we’ll finally find out if the old PR adage that all publicity is good publicity is true or not. In the meantime, marketers should continue their efforts to keep getting their brands coverage. And make sure that includes social media, as well.
A recent study by Simply Measured found that earned social media—“a conversation about your brand that wasn’t started by you”—drives 3.8 times more traffic than anything you do on your own. And while you can’t control earned social media, when such conversations do occur, you can use your own channels to amplify them, in much the same way you promote your traditional earned-media coverage.
As the trajectory of Trump’s rise has shown, maximizing earned media takes time and relentless effort, but the payoff can be huge.
Why Lasting Change Is Hard
Before we had any children, my wife and I lived in the heart of Dallas. One day, on our way back to our house, we were driving down Skillman Avenue when we were caught in a sudden torrential downpour.
The rain was coming down incredibly hard, which wouldn’t have been a problem if the storm drains were equipped to handle that much water. Instead, the road itself filled with water faster than we could have anticipated. Quickly, the water rose up the side of our car. Trying not to panic, we realized that we could not continue and would need to turn around and get to higher ground.
Water rising up the side of your car door is the kind of roadblock you might not expect to encounter, but when you do, it’s formidable. We couldn’t drive through it or even around it. We had to deal with it quickly or face serious consequences.
When we’re trying to implement change in our own lives, it’s important to identify and plan for common roadblocks to lasting change.
The first and, in my opinion, most important roadblock to lasting change is not addressing the real issue.
Let’s say you wake up in the middle of the night with a sore throat. You’re annoyed by feeling sick but your throat really hurts, so you get up and spray a little Chloraseptic in your mouth and drift off to sleep. When you wake up the next day, you still have a sore throat, so you pop in a cough drop and go about your day.
The change you’re making – using a numbing agent – might work if you’ve only got a cold, but if it’s strep throat, you’re not addressing the real problem. Only an antibiotic will cure what ails you, even if Chloraseptic will keep the pain at bay for a while.
Just like how more information is needed to diagnose your sore throat than one feeling, problems you encounter in your life or business require diagnostics, too. Figuring out the real problem – not just your most apparent needs – requires some introspection and a little bit of time.
Here are eight questions to ask when you need to discover the root cause, courtesy of MindTools.com:
- What do you see happening?
- What are the specific symptoms?
- What proof do you have that the problem exists?
- How long has the problem existed?
- What is the impact of the problem?
- What sequence of events leads to the problem?
- What conditions allow the problem to occur?
- What other problems surround the occurrence of the central problem?
Once you have your answers to these key questions, you can’t stop there. Your vantage point is skewed from your own perspective. You’re going to want to ask someone else to evaluate the problem at hand with the same questions and then compare your answers.
If you and all of the partners at your firm have similar answers, you’ll know you’re on the right track. If you wind up with wildly different ideas, I suggest seeking the advice of someone outside your organization. Fresh eyes can make all the difference in understanding a problem.
I often talk about being ‘too close’ to understand. You’ve probably heard the illustration about a group of people standing by an elephant with blindfolds on, trying to describe what they’re experiencing. Depending on what part of the elephant you’re next to, you’re going to have different observations.
But someone outside of that elephant’s cage can clearly identify the elephant.
The first key to making a lasting change is to make sure you’ve addressed the real problem and are looking for authentic change.
Next time, we’ll address the second major roadblock to creating last change.
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