As a new year beckons and we take stock of the one reaching its conclusion, it’s always a natural time to look back on the learnings and the experiences and enthusiastically towards the potential innovations before us.
Writing at this time last year, I would not have even talked much about Generative Artificial Intelligence or ChatGPT. But boy, did it take 2023 by storm, building upon network effects unseen in human history.
What I take personally from this past year is perhaps not something so ground-breaking, but a culmination of my own background and observations. For me, this has been the year of “earnfluencing.”
A blend of earned media and influencer strategies, this approach could catalyze your own content management, strategy, and production – and turn many more eyes toward the content products you worked so hard on creating.
You may not be familiar with earnfluencing as a concept. While it's fairly intuitive, let’s start with a basic explanation of the term and the parts that define the whole.
This is publicity gained organically through means other than paid advertising. Think promotional efforts like unpaid social, buzz, or viral attention. According to Cision, a PR and media software company, “Earned media, by definition, isn’t created directly by your brand or paid for. You ‘earn’ it through your reputation, word-of-mouth, and public relations efforts. The biggest difference between earned media marketing and other strategies is that it comes from third-party sources, which gives it some unique benefits.”
Here, the focus is on leveraging individuals who have the power to affect the purchase decisions of others because of their authority, knowledge, position, or relationship with their audience. Influencers can also be the third-party sources and platforms through which earned media can come to light.
Traditionally, earned media was won via media relations (public relations) specialists spending their days making pitches on behalf of clients to television and news platforms. These professionals would craft angles and narratives and pitch their customers accordingly. When a customer mention, interview, or profile landed in print or on television, it was a joyous occasion for the PR practitioner and their firm.
Earnfluencing is different in that it includes the “pitch” but also the platform where that pitch will be disseminated. It’s still earned media because money has not changed hands to be mentioned or inserted, as in advertising.
In this era of nearly unlimited digital canvas, where a smartphone in the palm of your hand can be a 4K video camera, audio recording device, notebook, word processor, and digital disseminator, there is a true democratization of platform creation. With this, you can leverage your unique storytelling skills to become and develop the platform.
For instance, the earnfluencer can interview a thought leader to appear on their long-form podcast, write the definitive profile of the industry CEO for their news blog, and even guide an expert product manager into the waters of TikTok. The opportunities are endless.
If you can artfully tell the story and provide access to an audience, you can facilitate the narrative. You can use that position at your professional intersection to further earnfluence by contributing to an online trade publication (like CMS Critic) or appearing in other podcasts, videos, and news across different platforms.
What’s the potential of earnfluencing?
Consider the impact of personalities like Donald Trump and Deion Sanders. They expertly blended media presence with influencer tactics, generating significant (earned) value for their brands, organizations, or aspirations, albeit with varied outcomes.
First, it has been reported that Donald Trump generated $5 Billion dollars in “free” earned media during the 2016 Presidential campaign.
That’s a big number. How did they calculate it, you ask?
Here's the basic math: the totality of the media coverage of the individual is tracked in terms of overall impressions, and then a dollar value is applied to these impressions based on advertising rates at the time.
Similarly, after Deion Sanders – the famous two-sport professional athlete nicknamed “Prime Time” – took over as Head Coach at the University of Colorado, he generated an estimated $280 Million in earned media after the first four games!
Both examples speak to the power and estimated value of “earnfluencing.” That said, it’s important to note that Donald Trump’s presidential first term ended unsuccessfully (to be kind), and Sanders’ Colorado Buffaloes finished 1-8 after three improbable wins to open the first season under his Colorado tenure.
I’ve used earnfluencing successfully in my work as a digital agency leader and across other entrepreneurial ventures. I’ve also thought a lot about how my peers in the digital experience and content management industry can leverage it as well.
Here’s what I discovered: By combining earnfluencing with a solid, stable, mission-driven strategy, the impact can be incredibly effective – and, more importantly, long-lasting. It requires the right mindset and a firm commitment, but the rewards can be tremendous.
If you’re thinking about putting earnfluencing into practice, here are five of my top takeaways and recommendations.
In the early days of my career, I cut my teeth covering sports for blogs and the online home of the Newark Star-Ledger. I was also the in-house writer for the NBA’s New Jersey Nets. Through it all, I learned the importance of being an effective beat writer.
So, what exactly is a beat writer? It’s an old journalism term used to describe specialized reporters. Beat writers are typically in the thick of things, immersing themselves in a specific issue, sector, or environment – connecting with key players and constantly seeking stories to drive the news cycle. The beat writer uses all the access available to them and the trust earned in them to narrate, curate, and raise up the stories of those around them.
Similarly, in content management, you can be the beat writer for your industry, product, or organization. Use your access and experience to uncover and elevate the narratives around you and develop a smart, scrappy mindset for uncovering the stories that matter.
The ultimate goal of any business is to monetize and commercialize activities. But I think we can do something very important on that path to monetization – and that is to "contentize."
Contentizing is about turning every experience and interaction into potential content. It's utilizing your unique position, connections, and skills – whether they be writing, hosting, audio, video, social media, or teaching – to craft stories that engage, influence, and generate value in the form of content.
This approach goes beyond mere monetization. It creates real value through storytelling and engagement.
I call this “The Kardashian Model,” as no discussion of influencer strategies is complete without mentioning the Kardashians. Their methodical approach to content creation, as highlighted in "No Filter: The Inside Story of Instagram," revolves around strategic planning and algorithm mastery.
Even if you’re not a fan of Kim and company, try mimicking their tactics by being intentional with your content, collaborating within your network, engaging with the super-connectors in your midst, and understanding the nuances of platform algorithms to maximize reach and impact.
While we might not have the heft of the Kardashians (they’re known globally), we can do several of the things they do well within our own organizations, niches, and with the connections we have within the industry.
As a beat writer, I’ve learned always to have my smartphone charged and ready – because a story can emerge in the wild at any moment. I call these serendipitous content opportunities.
A great example of this is Gary Vaynerchuk, a.k.a GaryVee. He epitomizes the "Contentize" ethos, as he constantly prowls for content opportunities. He even has videographers documenting his daily life, figuring that if he captures most of what happens in his day, there'll be some gold in them thar hills…
It also makes him more apt to start discussions with strangers because serendipitous content opportunities can also come from those interactions. It's a virtuous circle – and if something doesn’t work, you don’t have to use it.
Also, the "Content Pyramid" in GaryVee's Content Model strategy emphasizes repurposing a single piece of long-form content across multiple platforms (similar to the ole “big rock” concept). This approach can be a game-changer in creating, decomposing, and distributing content.
Despite its rap as a threat to writers, generative AI was purpose-built for content creators – and it’s revolutionizing how we approach earnfluencing.
Gen AI is a massive productivity booster that allows earnfluencers to do more with less. It can aid in creating, transcribing, and repurposing content, allowing users to maintain a consistent and engaging presence across multiple platforms.
This technology can amplify your earnfluencing capabilities, making your strategy more dynamic and far-reaching. ChatGPT, in my opinion, was born to contentize.
A content management system or digital experience platform should be a natural repository, hub, and spoke of your earnfluencing program – the aforementioned “platform” to bring to life all your “pitches.”
In a CMS or DXP, content can be created and crafted through collaboration. It can be requisitioned for publishing through integrated editorial calendars and
workflow. The database of your ecosystem influencers and key/trending topics should be tagged and ultimately distributed across all your channels (social, email, etc.), so you can easily manage and grow your earnfluencer strategy.
Using a platform with built-in or integrated analytics is also critical. The metrics and tracking should be within arm’s reach so you can always gauge your performance and adjust as needed. The best platforms can also power dynamic personalization for specific audiences, allowing you to tailor your content based on your readers and customers.
My dream: What if you could pipe in trending topics (from Google Trends, etc.) to the dashboard of your CMS or DXP – and then have AI surface all the content within your library that can be utilized at that moment to generate new engagement and reach for your existing content? This tactic, affectionately called “newsjacking,” would be a great way to augment your earnfluencing and bring more value to your content.
Earnfluencing is at the intersection of earned media and influencer strategies. It requires a keen understanding of digital narratives, audience engagement, and the power of influence. As content managers and creators, embracing this approach means stepping into a realm where authenticity, strategic planning, and technological innovation come together to create impactful, resonant content.
Ready to catch some “earnfluenza”? Let's embrace it – and go viral together.
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