13 Reasons Why Earned Social Coverage Should be Part of your PR Agency’s Strategy (and How to Land It)

According to a late 2017 report by the Pew Research Center, 67% of adults now get their news from social media feeds, up from 62% at the beginning of 2017.

The truth is evident. Your PR agency landing a piece of coverage online and hoping a consumer will stumble across it is no longer enough. A social share by the title is the best way to extend the reach of your content and guarantee high-level visibility.

Here are the stats to prove our theory, our thoughts on why it’s good for marketers and our tips for making the most of this growing trend:


1. The Experts Agree

In 2015, Trinity Mirror caused quite a stir by confirming journalists were to be set click targets. Damian Radcliffe, honorary research fellow at Cardiff University’s School of Journalism, said: “I think it’s a recognition the audience consumes content in different ways.”


2. Facebook Is King

According to the Pew Research Center, about eight in 10 ‘user complete interactions’ with a news article via a social networking site now come from Facebook (82% long-form and 84% short-form), while a much smaller portion comes from Twitter (16% long-form and 14% short-form). When we talk social shares, we are generally talking Facebook.


3. The Facts Speak for Themselves

Take MailOnline, for example: 900,000 daily unique visitors to the website, 15.7 million followers on Facebook. Or Sun Online: 637,000 DUVs, 3 million Facebook followers. Same for Mirror Online: 500,000 DUVs, 2.9 million followers.


4. Regional Media Is No Different

You might think local titles would be different, but you would be wrong. Manchester Evening News has just 53,900 online readers every day, compared to 1.5 million followers on Facebook. It’s the same picture with Liverpool Echo (37,000 DUVs vs 1.2 million Facebook followers) and Yorkshire Evening Post (7,000 DUVs vs 148,000 Facebook followers). In fact, it’s the case pretty much everywhere you look.


5. Magazines Are Even More So

If anything, magazines are even more Facebook-first than their news equivalents. Cosmo sells just 351,000 print copies each month now and sees 13,000 DUVs, but is a social media giant with three million combined followers across its social channels. Marie Claire (16,000 DUVs vs 1.6 million Facebook followers) and Grazia (4,000 DUVs v 374,000 Facebook followers) are just the same, and so the pattern goes on, right across the board.


6. Viral Sharing Sites Are to Thank

It was probably the viral sharing juggernauts that made news appearing in our Facebook newsfeeds the norm. Within years, these publishers had dwarfed the readership levels mainstream media had built up over a century. Compare MailOnline to UNILAD (15.7 million Facebook followers for the former vs 39.2 million for the latter) and Mirror Online to LADbible (2.9 million vs 33.3 million).

If viral sharing sites aren’t on your agency’s media list but your audience follows them, you might want to ask why not.

By viral sharing sites we mean everything from LADbible, UNILAD and BuzzFeed to VT and Mashable.


7. It’s a Good Thing

As an agency, we love social coverage – not just because we know it will hugely increase the visibility of a client article, but for the insight it gives us too. We can now report on reader sentiment and active engagement metrics, i.e. X many people took time out of their lives to watch, like, comment on or share our content. This is far more meaningful than circulation figures, which tell us how many people might possibly have seen our article had they read the paper or website cover-to-cover, front-to-back, which no-one does.


8. It’s Free (almost)

At a time when Facebook charges us for everything, earned social is genius. You harness the organic reach of some of the biggest social media beasts with no media spend to suck up. Yes, Facebook is limiting the reach of publishers to some extent, but we aren’t seeing a dramatic reduction in engagement and view rates across earned coverage.


9. It’s a Gift That Keeps On Giving

Social coverage drives other coverage. When we launched ‘Glitter Gravy’ for Hungry Horse in December 2017, an initial broadcast sell-in proved fruitless. However, when our video had been shared 207,000 times on social and watched by more than 45 million people globally, broadcasters were coming to us in their dozens – to the extent that it appeared on NBC News and The Today Show in the US, SBS in Australia and Loose Women in the UK, alongside a long list of radio stations.

It’s worth noting too that the stories which get the most shares on social are the ones that quickly jump up the side bar, and make it into print.


10. But How Do You Secure It?

Tell most people our theory that online coverage mainly gets read through social shares, they will nod their head in quiet agreement, and then ask how you deliver it. The answer is fairly simple. The story has to be social-first, and packaged to be so. Titles will only share the stories they believe will drive clicks, views or engagement, so your agency will have to make it clear yours will. In more detail:


11. Do Your Research

Your agency needs to define the titles you most want to get coverage in, and determine the types of stories they share. They will have to find a story that sits at the intersection of your messaging and what defines shareable content by the title and its audience. Glitter Gravy worked brilliantly for us, as did Adulting, Creme Egg Yorkshire Pudding and Most Dangerous Holiday Destinations. We have plenty more in the pipeline.


12. Package Everything to Perfection

Leave no stone unturned in your execution. Your agency’s headline and call to action have to be designed for social, not a website or print edition. Your video (and you will need one) also has to work for social channels in every way – from style and format to sizing and subtitles.


13. Get the Targeting Right

In most instances, the usual press desk contacts won’t be the people to target with social-first stories. Make sure your agency does some digging and finds out who is.

In summary, social coverage is the Holy Grail for us in client campaigns for so many reasons. If you have any questions, please contact us. We’d love to hear from you.


The author: Jane Ainsworth is managing director of WPR. She has over 20 years’ experience in developing and delivering communications strategies for consumer brands including Dunelm, Tesco, Mothercare, Greene King, John Lewis, Bullring, Beaverbrooks and Westfield.