Earning Market Share through Earned Media

blogpic_billWith the flood of new senior living communities sweeping across the nation, chances are very high that your senior living communities are—or soon will be—facing some new competition. For your prospects, it can all easily become a blur of options and locations, with no clear advantage to be had with any of them. You may be left off of the short list when they try to select best options and never get a shot at their business. You didn’t deserve to lose, you just got lost in the crowd.

So the challenge becomes: how do you really stand out or differentiate your brand within that kaleidoscope of options?

The fast, easy answer is more advertising, and running more ads can certainly help. Advertising is important, but it can only speak from the smaller part of the print space or airtime space that is ultimately available to you—the side you have to pay for—unimaginatively called “paid media.”

Fortunately, there is another whole side to the media—a much bigger side, actually. That’s the side prospects are going to for information about senior living, called editorial content. Advertising can deliver total control of message, timing and design, but it can never deliver the implied third-party endorsement of that particular print, online or broadcast outlet, by virtue of its selection by trained news reporters and editors. Besides, “earned media” is free—it’s earned a right to be viewed!

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Effective publicity begins with strategic planning that engages clients and agency staff to identify the best story ideas and news angles on a regular basis. Stories must meet the delicate balance of serving company marketing goals while maintaining newsworthiness to the general public.

What can earn your way into that editorial side is news content professionally developed on behalf of your organization or community based on its journalistic value to the readers or viewers of that outlet. That kind of content—or publicity—is based on that inherent value. Earned media offers access to the very places your prospects go for information and it blends imperceptibly into the other editorial content. That’s especially good since some folks don’t read ads in the paper or listen to them on TV.

Contrary to the old adage, “all ink is good ink,” effective publicity must, by turns, underscore your brand values, demonstrate your proficiency, showcase happy residents and activities, as well as resonate with financial strength and exhibit social consciousness—to name only the most obvious news angles. And it must be doing all of that while also satisfying the core qualification for publication: the public interest.

Taken together, all of these publicity placements on behalf of your community begin to establish a strong brand presence for you—and one that defines you in terms of your greatest appeals to the marketplace. Publicity gives your community (or communities) a “face” in your local markets, comprised of all the cheerful faces of staff and senior residents they have viewed enjoying a happy, active and independent lifestyle at your community—all because of your special company culture.

That brand awareness translates into share of mind, which can be numerically linked to direct market share in terms of leads and contracts. Amazingly, you never get a bill from the media for all that powerful coverage—only a modest charge from a PR firm to do it right.

So don’t stop advertising, but augment your overall marketing program with a vigorous PR program that delivers the other half of the media–earned media—as a channel for your marketing messages.

That’s the way to really “stand out in the crowd.”

Print publicity can find many forms, in many different sizes and types of publications.  Click on this presentation to get an idea of how broad that scope can be.

 

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