Donald Trump is the King of Earned Media

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.

Bob Keane
Public Relations
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Bob oversees the development of editorial content for JConnelly and its clients, including strategic messaging, news releases, blogs and other written materials that are vital ... Click for full bio

Most Read IRIS Articles of the Week: July 17-21

Most Read IRIS Articles of the Week: July 17-21

Here’s a look at the Top 11 Most Viewed Articles of the Week on, July 17-21 2017 

Click the headline to read the full article.  Enjoy!

1. Is Alternative Beta the New Fixed Income?

The fee debate raging across mutual funds has long since seeped into hedge funds. Certainly the direction of travel on hedge fund fees was already downward, as strong industry competition and underwhelming performance have taken their toll. — Yazann Romahi

2. The 5 Big Questions for the Second Half of 2017

Equity markets continued their strong run in the second quarter of 2017, thanks to the global economy hitting its stride and registering the fastest level of growth in six years. For the first time since 2011, the U.S. is no longer the only shining star as economic momentum picked up across the globe. — Sonu Varghese

3. Smart Beta ETFs: The "Dream Diet" for Your Portfolio

What’s powerful about Smart Beta is that it allows investors to target very specific factors to create an ideal portfolio based on a given asset allocation.  — Salvatore Bruno

4. D‐O‐L = Confusion, Frustration, and Finally Reluctant Acceptance and Hope

At almost every financial and insurance conference we’ve attended in the past year, sessions to discuss the Department of Labor (DOL) Fiduciary Rule have been among the most popular. — Merriah Harkins

5. How To Hold A Stress-Free Money Conversation

In researching high growth professional services firms we made an eye-opening discovery. Those firms that did systematic business research on their target client group grew faster and were more profitable. — Michael Kay

6. 12 Financial Truths (Including Some You Won't Like)

We live in a noisy world where wisdom is hard to discern.  Here are a dozen financial truths honed from more than three decades of observation. — James E. Wilson

7. Are You Responsible for How Others Take Your Actions?

If you keep getting the same actions or responses from your interactions, it is most likely you that is the problem.  Stop blaming others for your issues. — Matthew Halloran​​​​​​​

8. 4 Surefire Ways to Enhance Your Influence

Being influential through your verbal and non-verbal communication Monday to Monday® requires deliberate practice. You can’t read how-to’s in a book or rely on your title and comfort level to be influential. — Stacey Hanke​​​​​​​

9. How Business Owners Allow Coffee Shops to Waste Time and Money

We all search for the least chaotic place to work and think. However, your location could hurt your productivity. Here’s why…. — Jennifer Goldman​​​​​​​

10. Four Simple Tricks to Find Your Passion That Work Every Time

You’re supposed to have a single burning passion, right? To feel this incredible drive to do this thing that you love. — Alli Polin

11. The Greatest Disrupter to Your Future Practice Will Be Your Clients

Real innovation, and real disruption, will be concepts and methods which “do new things that make the old things obsolete”. — Tony Vidler

Douglas Heikkinen
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IRIS Co-Founder and Producer of Perspective—a personal look at the industry, and notables who share what they’ve learned, regretted, won, lost and what continues ... Click for full bio