Email marketing has been called the digital glue of the social world. There’s a lot of truth to that statement; email is the only reliable push mechanism to reach out to people that works at scale. Certainly, you can direct message someone on Twitter or private message someone on Facebook or pick up the phone and call them, but these each have constraints.

So how does email marketing, email outreach, fit into the world of public relations? The world of the media – both old media and new media – is powered by attention. When someone is paying significant attention to you for any reason, more people come your way. Reporters are more likely to give you a call. Bloggers are more likely to ask to guest post or ask if you want to guest post. People are more likely to share your stuff socially.

Earned media does a great job of getting you the initial attention.

Get a placement in the New York Times, TMZ, the Weather Channel, Bloomberg or wherever it is that your audience pays attention regularly, and you’ll get a share of that attention.

The hard part for the average digital communicator then becomes keeping that attention.

Attention-capture mechanisms like email are absolutely vital for making the most of your earned media strategy. When people see your name, your product’s name, or your brand’s name in the media outlet of their choice, they tend to go searching for it. They tend to go type in your website’s address. They tend to seek you out for a brief period of time, when you are top of mind to them.

Assuming that you have interesting stuff, having an email marketing program can capture that attention while it’s flowing your way from earned media and give you the ability to re-capture attention in the future. Think of earned media attention like a wave coming on shore. If you’re not prepared to catch any of that water, it will wash up against the shore and then wash back out to sea as the next attention-getting piece of news flashes before your audience’s eyes. If, on the other hand, you’ve dug some trenches to capture that wave, you’ll be able to make much better use of your earned media attention.

For example, we have a newsletter, SHIFT Happens. You’ll see an email subscription box on the right of each of our blog posts, on the assumption that if any one of them captures your attention, we’ll be able to reach out to you and share something else attention-worthy soon.

If you haven’t integrated email marketing into your earned media strategy yet, it might be time to do so, especially before a big earned media hit. Shameless plug: SHIFT Communications can help you with your earned-to-email strategy.

A version of this post originally published 12/13/2012, updated 3/12/19.

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