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DISCLOSURE: This is not a partisan post, an endorsement for a particular candidate, or a political rant.

This is about the power of PR, more specifically, the power of earned media, something I speak about frequently in my business as president of Franco. We’re often asked to measure the value of media coverage, or to counsel a client on how to most effectively spend their marketing dollars, whether it’s media relations, traditional advertising, digital, events, etc. While we are an integrated agency that does all of the above, our roots are in public relations and good old earned media. And so far, this presidential election is shaping up to be an incredible case study in earned media.

No secret. Donald Trump is spending far less on political advertising than most other candidates. The most recent Ad Age Presidential Campaign Ad Scorecard  tracks him at eighth in ad spending, even behind the failed campaigns of Jeb Bush and Chris Christie. Yet, Trump’s strategy seems to be working, as he continues to lead state after state in primary elections, most recently here in Michigan last night.

Why? Earned Media. The Power of PR.

Donald Trump's campaign is capitalizing on earned media

Donald Trump’s campaign is newsworthy. Media can’t help but cover him. Photo credit: Gage Skidmore

Media outlets, and not just traditionally conservative ones, are dedicating an unprecedented amount of time to covering Trump and his unique campaign approach because it’s newsworthy. The definition of newsworthiness is fairly subjective, but the bottom line is that it’s making the networks money. Even CBS Exec Les Moonves has admitted that Trump is ‘damn good for business.’

Just last night, CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News networks all aired Trump’s press conference live without interruption, while completely ignoring Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s speech which occurred at the same time. Trump didn’t have to spend millions on advertising last night; he just set the stage, and the media flocked to it.

At Franco, we counsel our clients on what’s newsworthy. We tell them to do things differently (a press conference on a plane?!), use big gestures and colorful language (note: we DO NOT endorse insults), display energy and passion, examine a topic from a different angle, etc. Like it or not, Donald Trump is doing many of these things, and the media can’t help but cover him. He has consistently received a disproportionate amount of airtime from the major networks. Last month alone, Trump had 35 appearances on Fox News and received more than six hours of airtime on that single network, the most airtime any candidate has received in any month since Media Matters began tracking appearances in May 2015. And according to media monitoring service IQ media, the value of earned media from Fox News alone from May-December 2015 was nearly $30 million.

And according to many accounts, this was his plan all along. An excerpt from a Feb. 1 POLITICO article “How Trump Did It” by Eli Stokols and Ben Schreckinger

Notoriously frugal, Trump insisted he wouldn’t need to spend much money on paid advertising, drawing disbelief from the professionals gathered around his table.

“You can’t run for president on earned media,” one attendee recalled telling Trump.

The billionaire looked up, and paused for a long moment. “I think you’re wrong,” Trump said.

“I’m going to get in and all the polls are going to go crazy. I’m going to suck all the oxygen out of the room. I know how to work the media in a way that they will never take the lights off of me.”

Earlier this year, POLITICO calculated the value of Donald Trump’s earned media. I can only imagine it’s skyrocketed since January.

The Power of PR. The value of earned media.

The most interesting primary election season in recent memory.

As to who wins the White House, we endorse a candidate who shares Franco’s core values of Courage, Integrity and Balance.

Tina Kozak is president of Franco Public Relations Group. You can connect with her on LinkedIn or Twitter @tinakozak. Connect with Franco PR Group on Facebook and Twitter @FrancoPRGroup.

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