What is Earned Media and How to Get it

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To fully understand the ways that a PR firm can help your brand, you need to understand the PESO model of media engagement. Simply stated, PESO breaks down media opportunities into four types: paid, earned, shared, and owned. While having your brand featured in any of these types of media can be a win, earned media has special value that makes it stand out among the four.

What is earned media?

If you understand the mechanics of social media, then it will be easy for you to understand earned media and how it differs from the other types. Take Facebook as an example. Any brand can establish a Facebook account and begin sharing media that can be seen by its followers. That is not earned media; that is owned media. Any brand also can run an ad on Facebook that will be inserted in a variety of spots to be seen by people who are not your followers and are not necessarily looking for information about your brand. That also is not earned media; that is paid media. If your brand is putting out quality posts that your followers get excited about, someone might share a post with their followers, expanding your reach and allowing new people to get excited about your brand. Again, that is not earned media; that is shared media.

Imagine for a moment that your brand sells hiking boots. You have a new customer who picks up a pair of your boots at a sporting goods store and wears them out for a short hike on one of their local trails. They love your boots, which they describe as the equivalent of “hiking on air,” so they post a picture on Facebook with your boots, their excellent review, and a link to your website. That is earned media.

Examples of earned media

Earned media is media that you do not control. You do not create it. You do not pay for it. Social media posts prepared by fans raving about your brand are a great example of paid media. Other examples include:

  • Press coverage – When companies send out press releases, they are hoping to earn this type of earned media. The press, whether it is local television news or a regional newspaper, loves to report on companies releasing a revolutionary new product, passing a significant milestone, or launching a charitable campaign. Make sure to communicate anything newsworthy via a press release to capitalize on this type of earned media.

  • Online customer reviews – While you might encourage your customers or clients to leave reviews in a variety of ways, what they post is their media. Outlets for this type of earned media include Google My Business reviews, Amazon reviews, Yelp reviews, and Facebook reviews. Don’t overlook the value of capturing good reviews, which are great earned media, and sharing them on your website and other spaces where your owned media appears.

  • Trade publication features – If your brand is doing something that brings significant value to a particular industry, there is probably a trade publication for that industry that would love to share the news with its readers. Trade publications typically have a smaller circulation than mainstream media, but their readers represent a more focused market for your product. Earned media in trade publications can have a high conversion rate when favorable. But beware: a bad review from a trade publication is not the kind of earned media that you want.

Why is earned media worth pursuing?

As the examples above show, earned media is not the easiest media to achieve. Of the four described by the PESO model, owned media is most readily available. Any brand can begin crafting owned media by simply launching a website or registering for a social media account. Owned media says exactly what you want it to say exactly when you want to say it.

Paid media can be just as easy to get as owned media, provided you have some money to spend. There are countless media outlets that allow for the inclusion of paid media that promotes your brand in some way. While these outlets will often hold you to a higher standard of quality than you will need for your owned media, they can lend credibility to your brand.

Shared media can often be thought of as earned media, but there is a slight difference. Shared media is media that you own — meaning you prepared the language and the look — but someone else shares it to their audience. Videos that you produce and that go viral are a great example of shared media.

Primarily, earned media is worth pursuing because it carries more credibility among consumers than any media that a brand generates for itself. The common belief is that whatever media your brand produces will have a bias toward your brand. In other words, it is expected that you will give yourself a five-star review. Consumers want an unbiased review. If your product is featured in a blogger’s product review or in a news report on the go-to gifts for Christmas 2021, it will always be more valuable to a consumer than the description you provide on your website of the product.

How do you get earned media?

While earned media is free, it can take a lot of work to consistently achieve it. Here are some tips on steps that you can take to create earned media opportunities.

  • Press Releases – Make sure the press knows when your brand has a story that is newsworthy. While this can be time consuming, the pay off for landing earned media in a major media outlet is well worth it. Otter PR’s YouTube channel has great guidance on the basics of press releases, how to write a press release, and how to distribute a press release.

  • Journalist Requests – It is not unusual for journalists to include quotes, case studies, or expert opinions in their articles. Brands can obtain great earned media by connecting with those journalists. Being quoted by a journalist can boost credibility and reputation within your industry.  The Otter Blog has a great article on how to look for and find journalist requests.

  • Connecting with your community – If you are looking for earned media that flows organically in social media spaces, be active in those spaces. Become a part of the online communities where your potential customers and clients spend time. If you provide tech solutions, engage in some tech conversations on Reddit or other online forums. If you start to look like the brand that cares about the community, you will have a much easier time getting support from that community, which could lead to them endorsing you and your products or services. Also, this strategy can work outside of social spaces. If your brand has a brick and mortar presence, being active in your community lends you a lot of credibility. 

Earned media should always be a part of your public relations plan. When potential customers or clients see your owned or paid media, they will know you have a product. When they see your earned media, they will know that people love your product.

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Nik Korba

Nik has been a screenwriter, ghostwriter, novel writer, song writer, and blog writer with a degree from the University of Miami. He has prepared communications for thousands online and on social platforms, as well as being involved in the production of more than 1,000 videos.
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