Earned Media

The most effective ways to boost your bank’s brand

By Mary Bell Love, Executive Vice President, The Mach 1 Group

Community banks play an essential role in the Texas economy, connecting Texans across the state with the financial tools needed to thrive. However, community banks cannot rely on word of mouth alone in today’s competitive environment. Success requires proactive communication and marketing strategy. Sharing your bank’s story doesn’t require a large budget to purchase billboards, commercials or digital ads. In fact, one of the best ways to boost brand awareness is earned media.

What is earned media?

Earned media, or earned content, is any material written about you or your business in a news outlet that you haven’t directly paid to be published or created yourself — examples include radio, TV and print interviews, a feature about your business’ event on the evening news or an opinion piece by company leadership in your local newspaper. Earned media is the best advertising because it lends credibility. 

Securing earned media takes diligent work and outreach, which may sound daunting, especially with a small staff. But by deploying these tips and tricks, your community bank can get the media recognition it deserves. 

Defining your message

Interviews are a form of earned media.Before you reach out to a reporter or submit an opinion piece, you must define your message. Your message tells your organization’s story, the work you do and the issues you want to promote. 

Crafting your message is a simple formula: Begin by identifying a threat or opportunity to share. Next, establish a victim and a villain who imposes the threat and, finally, present a hero to deliver a solution. 

This blueprint will help your bank develop a message that your audience can easily remember. 

A rule of thumb for developing messages is to never have more than three key points. Three is the smallest number required to create a pattern. By limiting yourself to three key messages, you tell your story in a format designed to maximize audiences’ retention. 

Any more than three, and you risk losing your audience. As you move through an interview or pitch, your three points should be woven together to create one compelling composition: the pattern of your message.

Thinking like a reporter 

Once you have your message, it’s time to think like a reporter. Whether you pitch a story to a reporter or they reach out to you for an interview, knowing a reporter’s mindset can help you share your message. 

In today’s newsroom, reporters search for stories that will get impressions, clicks and views. As a result, they use several factors to determine a story’s viability, including timeliness, proximity and the narrative. 

First and foremost, reporters want stories that have just happened or are about to happen and are relevant to the local area. 

Next, reporters want to craft stories that people want to read. Think of the best stories you’ve read. Chances are they involve a crisis, controversy, change or pull on the heartstrings. If a reporter reached out to your institution for a comment, consider these elements to help get a better sense of their angle and how to prepare. 

Think about the way your bank interacts with its community. Philanthropic efforts, new offerings and achievements are great stories to share with the media. 

Reaching out

Op-ed in the local paper are a form of earned media.Armed with your message and understanding of the reporter mindset, it’s time to reach out to the media. You can share information with the press through a summary of your story, known as a “pitch,” or through a more formal press release. 

To send a pitch, you will want to find the right reporter. Before pitching a reporter, do some homework. Spend time researching their recent articles and social media archives. Discover what topics are top of mind and strategize how you can connect the dots to tie your pitch to their interests.

Every major TV affiliate (CBS, NBC, FOX, ABC, etc.) has a local outlet. Search for the outlet in your media market. Next, you will want to pay attention to job titles. Sending a story about new banking technology to a meteorologist won’t get you very far. Be on the lookout for reporters who have covered similar subjects in the past or are producers. 

In Texas, every region of our great state has a daily newspaper such as the El Paso Times, Fort Worth Star-Telegram or Beaumont Enterprise. Target these outlets if you are looking to submit an opinion piece, such as a letter to the editor (also referred to as an “LTE”) or want to share your story with a slightly larger audience. Larger regional papers often have reporters dedicated to certain subjects — be sure to choose the reporter who best fits your story.

Sending a press release follows a similar process. Determine your outlet and this time, look for a specific press release or general news desk email address. If you send a press release out to multiple media outlets, schedule time in your day to do follow-up calls to the newsrooms or reporters to ensure they received the release and see if they would be interested in covering the story.

Once your article, segment or release is published, be sure to thank your reporter and share it with your customers. Not only are you promoting your bank, but building a relationship with the reporter by boosting their performance metrics.

Texas community banks work hard each day to provide for the Lone Star State. Your team can develop vital relationships with local journalists and build credibility with current and future members by deploying these tips. Let’s show the state and nation the incredible work our banks do! 

The Mach 1 Group is a nationally recognized, award-winning Austin-based firm serving organizations and individuals whose interests are in the public realm.