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“If you pay for media, you’re a loser.”

That’s what I told my friend, Ken Gordon, when he asked me the lesson of this piece in The New York Times, “Measuring Donald Trump’s Mammoth Advantage in Free Media.”

Now, if you happen to be living in these United States, you know that Donald Trump is everywhere. In fact, the Times article calls him “strong in every type of earned media, from television to Twitter.”

But that reference to “earned media” should make anyone working in marketing and PR prick up their ears because the amount of earned media Trump has garnered dwarfs not only what he has spent, but what any other candidate can claim. He got $189 of media for every $1 he spent! That’s huge!

trump_earned_media_vs_paid

Of course, while some of the other candidates listed above have had lengthy careers in the public spotlight, none have spent as much time cultivating and growing a media brand the way Trump has. Trump knows how to capture media attention like no other candidate in my life time!

Be the Story

In addition to the “loser” lesson mentioned above, I also told my friend, “Don’t buy the story. Be the story.” (For the historical record, technically, I wrote, “Don’t tell the story. Be the story.”)

If you have ever pursued a PR strategy, you know this is fairly sound (and, frankly, not particularly novel) advice. Folks in the media don’t really care about what your company is doing or has done unless it is a story in and of itself.

Of course, “being the story” is easier said than done. One short-cut, however, is to be part of some other story that people are talking about.

For example, I worked for a time on an online learning initiative called, Aquent Gymnasium. When Gymnasium was launched, MOOCs (massive open online courses) were all the rage. In fact, only six months prior to that launch (in November, 2012), the Times had declared 2012 “the year of the MOOC.”

Thanks to the conversation swirling around the MOOC phenomenon (which did eventually die down), we were able to get some decent coverage in the Boston Globe, Forbes, Fast Company, Inc., and Fox Business News. We weren’t the story, exactly, but we were part of it.

If you want to make the news, you have to make news!

When I once mentioned that I wanted to be famous (still working on it!), someone quipped, “Well, why don’t you do something interesting?”

This, too, was and is sound advice. If you want to people to talk about what you’re doing, do something interesting. At Aquent, we heard about the MOOC movement, figured out how we could apply it to our business, and even tried to solve some of problems associated with MOOCs more broadly (such as connecting the dots between online learning the “skills gap”). The press followed.

So, while it might not make sense for your business to put a lot of energy into provoking outrage or engaging in public disputes, it definitely behooves you to do something interesting – either for your customers, your employees, or the world at large.

As my friend, Lou Imbriano, says: Go do!

Image Source (Creative Commons): Jon S.

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