How Did Earned Media Help Joe Biden and How Can it Help You?

In the days between former Vice-President Joe Biden winning the South Carolina primary on February 29 and the Super Tuesday primaries on March 3, we saw an interesting demonstration of the power of earned media.  But, what is earned media and why should we care?

Let’s set the stage for what happened.  Joe Biden didn’t win any of the first three primaries, held in Iowa (we don’t really know who won that one, but it wasn’t Biden), New Hampshire, and Nevada.  For the entire campaign leading up to those first primaries, Biden was touted as the leader in the race, but then he floundered.  Donor money, which was never flowing terribly freely for Biden, dried up.  His campaign was essentially going broke.

That doesn’t sound good, does it?  Advertising and a good organization are the backbone of what we thought would win these primaries, and Biden didn’t have them.  For example, he didn’t have a single field office in Massachusetts or Texas, and hadn’t held campaign events in either of them.

Then … something happened.  That “something” was a Biden landslide win in the South Carolina primary, three days before Super Tuesday.  During those three days, you couldn’t turn on anything resembling a news program, news website, or even social media, without seeing something about Joe Biden.  What’s most important is that his campaign didn’t pay for any of that exposure, because it’s what we call earned media.

For Biden, the news stories about his surprise win in South Carolina took the place of all of those annoying political ads you see this time of year.  That coverage, coupled with a couple of opponents dropping out and endorsing him, was enough for him to turn the momentum from his first primary win into 10 wins on Super Tuesday.

So, why should you care about this?  If you have a business or a product that you want people to know about, you should care a lot.  For you, earned media is gained by a well-known PR tactic called media relations — working with the media to either convince them to write stories about your product or business, or getting that product or business mentioned in a larger news story.  While newspapers, TV, and websites aren’t necessarily going to be clamoring to write stories about you like they did about Joe Biden (bully for you if they are!) the impact of earned media through media relations can be massive for your branding and sales efforts.