Let’s begin by stating that I firmly believe every MSP, regardless of size or maturity, should implement some form of earned media strategy. But what exactly is “earned media”? To clarify, let’s look at the three primary types of media and their distinctions.

Paid Media: This involves buying an ad in a local newspaper, airing a commercial on TV, or purchasing a sponsored search listing. It’s attention you’ve directly paid for.

Owned Media: This is when you establish a website and blog, and post content on your social media accounts. These platforms are ones you own and control.

Earned Media: This is when someone else mentions your company or something you’ve accomplished in a public setting, or when they redistribute your content on their channels. It’s attention you’ve earned without owning or paying for it.

Of these three media types, you’ll find that earned media is the hardest to come by, making it the most impactful as well. But why? My good friend and fellow MSP marketer, Paul Green, who possesses deep knowledge on this subject, explains:

“It all comes down to a matter of credibility. When you pay to put a message out there, you have huge amounts of control over the message, but it has low credibility… Because people know you have paid to put that message out. Publicity or earned comments on social media is the exact opposite. You have very little control over what is said, but it has massive credibility.”

He’s spot on. The essence of earned media is to spark conversation, but in doing so, you relinquish total control over the narrative. This can be both a blessing and a curse. Unlike paid and owned media channels, earned media can sometimes be negative. For instance, individuals might post unfavorable reviews about your company or dissuade their friends from partnering with you. Earned media works in both directions. 

This underscores one of the many reasons I advocate that every MSP should have an earned media strategy, aiming to consistently generate positive buzz and awareness for their brand. Not sure where to begin? We’ve got you covered. Here’s a compilation of creative methods to get the conversation started about you and your business:

1. Free Event Wi-Fi

Local fairs, festivals, and farmers markets are community hubs where people tend to gather. Since they are often outdoors, very few have reliable Wi-Fi coverage. By stepping in and providing a reliable Wi-Fi connection, you can enhance the overall experience for attendees. This gesture is not just about connectivity; it’s a strategic branding opportunity. Collaborating directly with event organizers can ensure smooth execution and build connections with those influential in the community. 

To maximize this potential, try naming the network something like “Free Wi-Fi by [Your Business Name].” This ensures that every attendee connecting to the network becomes aware of your brand and knows who is responsible for the added bonus. You may also consider implementing a splash page, requiring an email opt-in. This not only provides users with a secure connection but also allows you to add them to your email list, turning a one-time interaction into a potential long-term relationship.

2. Expert Commentary

As an MSP, you are always on the front-line of cybersecurity threats and internet-related scams. Local news outlets, in their mission to inform and protect the public, often seek expert opinions on these pressing issues. With your in-depth knowledge and expertise, you are perfectly poised to fill this role. This is why positioning yourself as a thought leader can provide invaluable insights while simultaneously building trust within the community.

Building relationships with local news producers and hosts is the first step to accomplishing this. Regular outreach, in the form of press releases or segment pitches, can ensure that when a relevant topic arises, your MSP is top of mind. To increase the chances of being featured, consider aligning your pitches with broader national or global tech narratives. This not only showcases your expertise but also underscores your awareness of the bigger picture.

3. Tech Recycling Drive

E-waste is a growing concern, with discarded devices posing both environmental and data security risks. By hosting a technology and e-waste recycling drive, MSPs such as yourself can address these issues head-on. This event would not only underscore your commitment to environmental responsibility but also serves as a platform to educate the public about the dangers of improper disposal.

Hosting the drive at your office or a central community location can also enhance local brand recognition. It’s an opportunity to interact directly with the community, answering questions and offering insights. To ensure data security, MSPs can emphasize their own secure disposal methods, mitigating any concerns about data breaches. Additionally, requiring an email sign-up for event registration can serve a dual purpose: keeping attendees informed about the disposal process and providing a channel for future communications.

4. Pop-Up Tech Support

High-traffic areas, like shopping malls or community centers, are ideal locations for a pop-up tech support booth. Such a booth can serve as a tangible representation of an MSP’s services, allowing locals to interact directly with entry-level technicians and get a firsthand experience of what it is like to do business with your company. It’s also a chance to diagnose tech issues, offer solutions, and showcase the breadth of knowledge within your team.

However, while this initiative offers numerous benefits, it’s essential to set clear boundaries. You should do your best to ensure that the booth focuses on diagnostics rather than repairs to avoid any potential liabilities. Clear signage and communication can help in emphasizing that the primary focus is on supporting businesses, ensuring that there’s no confusion among the attendees.

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5. Tech-Themed Art Installations

Art has the power to captivate and engage those who encounter it. Collaborating with local artists or students to create a tech-themed public art installation can be a unique way to merge the worlds of technology and art. Such an installation can serve as a visual representation of the ever-evolving tech landscape, drawing attention and sparking conversations among viewers.

By providing artists with themes aligned with the services MSP business might offer, such as cybersecurity, the art can become both informative and visually appealing. Encouraging the use of recycled tech parts can add another dimension to it as well. To ensure brand visibility, be sure to add your branding to the installation, perhaps even incorporating interactive elements like QR codes. Turning this into a contest or offering scholarships can further engage the artist community, making the installation a collaborative and celebrated endeavor.

6. Local Business Event Calendar

Local businesses often seek platforms to promote their events, from networking sessions to workshops. Many of the event ideas in the article could benefit from the same. By creating an online calendar dedicated to these events, your company can position themselves as a community connector. This initiative not only offers a valuable resource to businesses but also provides you with numerous networking and collaboration opportunities.

Allowing businesses to add their events autonomously ensures that the calendar remains updated and relevant without eating up your time. You can even take this a step further by engaging with event hosts, offering thanks for their contributions, and even promoting these events on your social media platforms. Such gestures can foster goodwill and community spirit, with the added benefit of consistent brand visibility.

7. Youth Tech Workshops

The next generation is growing up in a world dominated by technology. Hosting tech workshops for kids and teens can be a proactive way to ensure that they navigate this world safely and knowledgeably. Collaborating with local educational institutions or libraries can provide the necessary infrastructure and reach, ensuring these workshops have a broad impact. Topics can range from app security to understanding Wi-Fi, tailored to the age group in question.

Making these events free, but with a sign-up requirement, will allow you to estimate the amount of participants you will have well ahead of time and plan accordingly. Engaging parents through registration can also build brand awareness among adults. To amplify the impact, MSPs can seek local media coverage, positioning these workshops as invaluable community resources.

8. Tech Time Capsule

Time capsules are a celebration of the present and a gift to the future. Organizing a technology-themed time capsule can be a unique way to engage the community, allowing them to contribute and speculate about the future of tech. Whether it’s physical devices or digital memories, such a capsule can capture the essence of the current tech landscape.

Hosting events around the capsule, from the initial collection to the eventual unveiling, can be opportunities for community engagement and brand promotion. You can set up a booth to capture tech predictions via video, adding an interactive element to the proceedings. Collaborating with local media can ensure the event gets the coverage it deserves, making it a memorable community endeavor.

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9. Cybersecurity Escape Room

Escape rooms have surged in popularity as immersive experiences that challenge participants’ problem-solving skills, teamwork, and creativity. Introducing a cybersecurity-themed escape room can be a brilliant way to combine entertainment with education. Participants can navigate through a series of tech challenges, deciphering codes, identifying phishing attempts, and securing breached systems. This not only provides a hands-on experience of the threats lurking in the digital world but also emphasizes the importance of cybersecurity in a fun and engaging manner.

For an MSP, this initiative offers a dual benefit. On one hand, it positions you as innovative thought leaders in the cybersecurity domain, showcasing your expertise in a unique format. On the other hand, it serves as a community engagement tool, drawing in groups ranging from corporate teams to tech enthusiasts. To enhance the experience, you may periodically update challenges to reflect current cybersecurity threats, ensuring the escape room remains relevant and educational. Collaborating with local businesses or schools can also widen the reach, making it a sought-after event in the community calendar.

10. Monthly Webinars 

Webinars have become a staple for knowledge dissemination. Hosting monthly webinars on trending tech topics can be a great routine for your MSP to implement. It offers a platform to showcase expertise, engage with the community, and address pressing tech challenges. You may also be able to get Market Development funds from your technology vendors to contribute content and/or cover the costs. 

In addition to these benefits, webinars can also serve as a two-way communication channel. You may also use this time for interactive Q&A sessions, allowing participants to voice their concerns and offer feedback for your company. This not only fosters a sense of community but also helps in understanding the evolving needs of your audience, ensuring that your company remains agile and responsive.

11. Non-Profit / Startup Grants 

Every community has visionaries striving to make a difference. Local nonprofits and startups often have the passion but sometimes lack the resources to bring their visions to life. By offering grants or some form of free service, your IT business can help to contribute positively to their mission with very little impact to your bottom-line. This gesture not only gives them help in their time of need, but it also positions your brand as a community-centric entity.

Beyond the immediate assistance, these collaborations can also lead to long-term partnerships. As these organizations grow, they may have far more sophisticated requirements, which they are likely willing to pay for. Since you have been investing in them from the very beginning, your company will no doubt be at the top of their list of candidates to service their business or organization going forward. 

12. Student Scholarships

The future of the tech industry lies in the hands of today’s students. By providing scholarships, your MSP is making a tangible investment in the future. This gesture not only aids students financially but also sends a clear message about your commitment to nurturing the next generation of tech professionals. It doesn’t matter how large the donation might be, although you may want to offer a smaller amount to a larger group of students to widen the overall impact. 

In today’s recruiting landscape, where there is a 0% employment rate for engineers of certain qualifications, this can also offer your company a sneak-peek at rising talent that show an early interest in tech. Such initiatives can also open doors for internships, workshops, and potential employment opportunities. Students who benefit from your scholarships are more likely to consider your MSP for future endeavors, ensuring a continuous flow of incoming resources and innovative ideas.

13. Sports Leagues / Teams 

MSPs can harness the power of local sports leagues and team sponsorships as a strategic move to bolster their local brand presence and foster community engagement. By sponsoring a local sports team, you can not only get your company  name emblazoned on jerseys, banners, and other promotional materials, but it also taps into the passionate and loyal fan base that local sports teams often command. This creates a unique opportunity for you to be associated with the positive emotions and camaraderie that sports events elicit. 

This also opens up doors to also work closely with the leagues themselves, possibly providing complementary support in exchange for increased visibility at league events. Furthermore, local media outlets, always on the lookout for community stories, are likely to cover these leagues and events, providing you with that secondary earned media exposure that you are looking for. This coverage, whether it’s in the form of newspaper articles, local TV segments, or radio broadcasts, amplifies your brand’s visibility and keeps you top-of-mind. 

14. Breakfast / Lunch Meetups 

Hosting breakfast or lunch meetups is a great way to interact with fellow business leaders on a routine basis. These informal gatherings offer a unique opportunity to build genuine relationships within the community, positioning yourself as not just a service provider, but a local partner invested in the success of its clients. By hosting or sponsoring these events, you can create a platform to teach your peers about the latest IT trends, solutions, and best practices, all while enjoying a meal. This relaxed environment encourages open dialogue, allowing attendees to share their own IT challenges and needs, giving you invaluable insights into the local market’s demands.

One advantage of being an MSP and having a robust channel of vendors, is that many of your vendors will help to support such an event. They typically do this in the form of market development funds, which will offset the costs of meeting space rental, food, promotional materials, etc. If you are planning to host a routine event such as this, be sure to ask around, as you will almost certainly find someone that is willing to support the cause and get involved. 

15. Annual Open House 

Transparency is a great way to build trust.. Hosting an open house is not just a way to show off your company’s real estate, but it is an invitation to the community to see the inner workings of your MSP business and how it functions. It’s also an opportunity to showcase your state-of-the-art facilities, introduce your talented team, and demonstrate what your services actually are and how you execute them on a day-to-day basis. When people see the passion and dedication firsthand, they’re more likely to trust your brand with their tech needs.

Beyond the tour, use this opportunity to engage with visitors and keep them entertained. Host mini-workshops, offer tech demos, or simply have a chat over refreshments. These personal interactions can leave a lasting impression, turning casual visitors into loyal clients. For any prospects that may have been considering your services but have not signed up yet, this could be the event that finally convinces them to do so. 

The State of MSP & Cyber | 2024 IT Industry Report

Sponsored by Worklyn Partners & Zest 

16. Free Tech Rental Program

For small businesses and entrepreneurs, access to technology is crucial to growing their business. The problem is that sometimes the need for such tech is temporary and if purchasing is the only option, most will forgo their use of technology altogether. For example, imagine an Entrepreneur has a really important presentation and they need a projector.  By offering a free rental program for those in need, you’re enabling them to use the tech they need, when they need it.

Whether it’s a high-end video camera for a weekend project or even a piece of software for a month-long assignment, this initiative can introduce community members to new technologies and foster a sense of gratitude towards your brand. This gratitude may pay off in the long run, as these entrepreneurs turn these ideas into businesses and those companies ultimately need the services of an MSP. 

17. School Partnerships

Education is the cornerstone of progress, and technology plays an integral role in modern learning. By establishing partnerships with local schools, you can create a lasting impact. This can be done by offering to revamp outdated computer labs, providing regular IT maintenance at a reduced cost (or complementary), or even introducing a tech curriculum tailored for young minds to prepare them for the challenges that you face everyday as an MSP. 

Beyond infrastructure, you may also consider launching mentorship programs. In this case, you may invite students to spend a day at your facility, shadowing professionals, and gaining real-world insights on what it is like to be a Managed Service Provider. This not only enriches their learning experience but also positions your MSP as a beacon of community development and future-forward thinking.

18. Guest Blogging 

Thought leadership is more than just a buzzword; it’s a pathway to authority and trust. This is what guest blogging seeks to earn, and why it is one of the most proven ways to earn attention. By contributing guest articles to local business websites or community platforms, you’re sharing invaluable insights and expertise. You can delve deep into topics, from the intricacies of cybersecurity to the transformative potential of cloud computing, all with a local twist that helps frame these ideas for the audience. 

This activity doesn’t just stop at writing (which is far easier to accomplish now with the help of AI). You must also engage with readers in the comments, answer queries, and use the content to foster discussions. This proactive approach not only drives organic traffic to your site but also nurtures relationships, positioning your MSP as a genuine community collaborator and industry expert.

19. Local Tech Podcast

Podcasts have become a popular medium for both information and entertainment. Launching a local tech podcast can position you and your MSP business as a go-to source for the latest in tech news, innovations, and solutions. By featuring interviews with community business and tech leaders, discussing local tech challenges, or simply exploring global tech trends, your podcast can cater to a wide audience. The act of reaching out to potential guests is a great business development activity that often leads to conversations beyond the content itself. 

Podcasts also offer a unique intimacy, with listeners often feeling a personal connection to the hosts. This long-form content can foster loyalty, with regular listeners turning to you for services, advice, or collaborations. It also gives you the ability to cross-promote with your guests, which will get you in front of their audiences at little to no cost. This is one of the many reasons why podcasting is one of the most popular forms of earned media in the world right now. 

20. Collaborative Events 

Collaboration is one the key components when it comes to community engagement and earned media. Hosting events as a single organization can certainly work, but doing it in tandem with another local business typically compounds the benefits. Partnering with local businesses to host combined tech and non-tech events, like “Bytes and Brews” for example, can offer attendees a unique experience that they won’t soon forget. These events can introduce entry-level tech concepts in a relaxed, fun environment, making them more accessible to the average person. 

Let’s be honest, most business owners cringe at the thought of sitting through a highly technical demo or conversation. This is why collaborating with non-technical businesses can make the event more well-rounded and interesting.  Much like with podcasting,  these collaborative events can also lead to cross-promotion, with both your MSP and the partnering business benefiting from combined marketing efforts, shared audiences, and mutual referrals.

21. Community Tech Surveys 

Understanding your community’s tech needs and interests is incredibly important for a service organization such as an MSP.  Conducting regular surveys can provide invaluable insights, allowing your company to tailor its services to the true needs of your local audience. While you may get a lot of feedback from industry experts on what the standards should be, it is important to also measure what the appetite for these services may actually be in your community. 

An added benefit of a community survey is the data that you are able to collect as a result, which you can leverage to generate even more earned media. For example, you might create a report that compares the result of your local survey to national averages, so that your community can see how “up-to-date” they are on greater technology trends. This allows you to form a statement as to whether your local community is ahead of or behind the curve, which can become a talking point on local news. 

22. Business Book Club

Books have the power to inspire, educate, and foster discussions. Starting a monthly book club focusing on business-related literature can bring together local business leaders, tech enthusiasts, and curious community members. These sessions can foster both reading and in-depth discussions on business strategies, tech innovations, and industry challenges. Pairing this with light refreshments and/or breakfast for morning events is sure to be a hit and increase repeat attendance. 

Moreover, these gatherings can lead to networking opportunities, partnerships, and collaborations, all while positioning your company as a hub for continuous learning and growth. You may consider hosting them in-person, virtually or hybrid, which opens up the ability to scale the group. It may also be beneficial to partner with the local library and host these meetings in their event rooms, this way it will be advertised on the library’s event calendar where more people are likely to see it and consider attending. 

23. Community Business Awards 

Every community has its stars and attention is usually a “give-to-get” type of benefit. This is why creating a system of recognition for local businesses and their technology use can lead to even greater exposure to your brand than simply winning an award yourself. Recognizing and celebrating local businesses or individuals who excel can also be a morale booster for them and will encourage them to share their achievement with others. This fosters a sense of pride and competition, driving others to innovate and excel as well.

Hosting such awards can also position your company as a community leader, someone who recognizes and appreciates excellence. The positive PR, media coverage, and community goodwill generated from these awards can further solidify your brand’s reputation. If you also create digital “badges” for your winners to add to their website, this can lead to a ton of backlinks, which will boost web traffic and SEO. 

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24. Charity Hackathons

Hackathons are typically intense, collaborative, and result-driven events that are often found in a high-tech setting such as that found in Silicon Valley. Organizing a charity hackathon can bring the local tech community together for a noble cause. Whether it’s developing an app for a local nonprofit or solving a community challenge, the solutions that emerge from these hackathons can have a lasting impact.

Beyond the immediate results, hackathons foster a sense of community, collaboration, and innovation. By hosting such an event, you can position your company as a brand that cares, driving positive PR and community engagement. This will also give you access to some of the most talented developers and technical minds in the community, which may prove to be useful later on as you have a need for these particular resources. 

25. Volunteer Days 

Giving back to the community is always a commendable endeavor. Organizing days where your team volunteers at local nonprofits, can make a tangible difference. This volunteerism can be in the form of manual labor (such as planting trees or picking up trash) or in the form of free help for a technical project. For example, you may take a day to go onsite and update all of the PCs at a specific organization to the latest operating system. This not only aids the nonprofits in their missions but also showcases your MSP’s commitment to community welfare.

These volunteer days are great opportunities to capture images of your team doing what they do best. This makes for engaging content on social media and can lead to long-term partnerships, positive PR, and a strengthened brand image. Your customers and prospects will feel good about their decision to partner with you, which is well worth the time and effort invested. 

26. Technology Swap Meets 

Tech gadgets, software, or tools that one person no longer needs can be invaluable to another. Hosting swap meets can be a fun way for community members to exchange items, discover new tools, and interact with fellow tech enthusiasts. These events can be themed, like vintage, audio-visual, gaming, business-tech, or simply general to cater to  a wider audience. More importantly they are an opportunity to get people into one place through some kind of mutual interest or benefit. 

These meets can also serve as networking events, fostering connections, collaborations, and discussions around technology topics. By facilitating these exchanges, you can position yourself as a community leader, bringing together diverse groups under the umbrella of tech. It may also act as a way to redistribute retired equipment that may still be useful. In this case, you can ask the recipient to make a donation or give a referral to complete the swap. 

27. Outdoor Movie Nights 

Outdoor movie nights have a certain vintage charm that’s hard to replicate. The ambiance of a clear night, with the community coming together under the stars can create a lasting memory for many. As an MSP hosting such an event, this can be a brilliant way to engage with your local community, and customers in a relaxed setting while subtly emphasizing the importance of technology in our lives. G-Rated technology-themed movies (such as Wall-E, Big Hero 6, or Tron: Legacy) can be the perfect way to tie this all together in a way that the whole family can enjoy.

It’s important to find a suitable venue, such as a local park or even your office parking lot, ensuring there’s enough space for attendees to set up their picnic blankets or chairs. Having  good quality audio-visual equipment makes for a great experience, as well as showcases your technical abilities. You may also consider offering complimentary popcorn or collaborating with local food trucks to provide refreshments, as well providing a short introduction to before the movie to explain who you are and what you do. 

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