Strategy: Using Earned Media to Amplify Your Message
Where and when it was used: Tennessee, March 2014
Notable metrics: Four Tennessee papers — The Tennessean (Nashville), Commercial Appeal (Memphis), Knoxville News Sentinel (Knoxville), and Chattanooga Times Free Press (Chattanooga) — all printed the same op-ed for their combined circulation of nearly 400,000.
With a team of just four staff, Enroll America Tennessee quickly understood the importance of using every tool possible to amplify their message to consumers about the impending deadline for enrollment opportunities.
After having initial meetings with Mayor Karl Dean (Nashville) and Mayor A C Wharton (Memphis), it became clear that they shared a desire to get the word out to consumers across the state about the March 31 deadline and were willing to write an op-ed together. Immediately following those meetings, staff reached out to Mayor Madeline Rogero (Knoxville) and Mayor Andy Berke (Chattanooga) and determined that they were also on board with collectively picking a date when they could all publish a joint op-eds in their local newspapers.
Enroll America coordinated the effort behind the scenes to make sure all of the newspapers were acting in sync and that the message was consistent throughout. On March 16, all four of the major newspapers printed the op-ed signed by the four mayors.
This type of coordination between mayors’ offices in Tennessee has never been done before on any issue, and this novelty attracted even more attention for the issue from the state and national media. As trusted messengers in their cities, the mayors were able to reach hundreds of thousands of consumers and deliver a crucial message about their opportunity to enroll in health coverage in the final few weeks of open enrollment.
Best practices to replicate:
- Don’t overlook the reach of earned media. The four newspapers that ran the op-ed have a combined circulation of 394,294. For smaller organizations with a limited budget or staff, earned media can be an extremely effective way to push your message at little or no cost to your organization.
- Think big. One mayor writing an op-ed would have helped; four made it impossible to overlook and a historic event in Tennessee’s history.
- Be strategic with earned media based on your target population. In this case, Enroll America targeted the largest newspapers. But if there is a specific population you are trying to reach, think about the local media outlets (like ethnic media) that reach them, and make sure you work to include it in those publications and radio/television stations.
- Make the Hard Ask. Enroll America was aware that the mayors from the state’s four largest cities supported enrollment, but they followed up with “an ask” to jointly write an op-ed. Without making “the ask,” you may exclude important allies and unnecessarily limit your reach.
- Think about timing. This op-ed was even more effective because of the increased urgency of March and the end of open enrollment.
For more ideas on how to take your outreach and enrollment efforts to the next level in the coming months, register today for our national conference, State of Enrollment: Getting America Covered, in Washington, D.C., June 16-18.