Earned Media: What is it, Why You Need it, and How to Get Value Out of It

Earned Media

For a business to grow, it needs to increase three things. First, it needs to increase awareness. Potential customers need to know the business exists and, just as importantly, remember it when making a purchasing decision. Second, the company needs to educate the target audience about why it is the best possible solution and superior to everything else available in the market. Finally, it needs to develop credibility so that prospects trust that the company’s product, or solution, will relieve whatever challenge(s) they are dealing with. This is why insightful, educational, and even disruptive content is so important. It is also critical that you get that content into the hands of your ideal customers, which can be achieved through three avenues: owned media, paid media, and earned media.

While all of these are important for a business, one has greater potential to increase revenue. 

Understanding the three types of media

In its simplest form, paid media is something that can be bought; owned media is something that is created for or by the company; and earned media is something you cannot buy or own – you must “earn” the placement.

Think of paid media as marketing tools like advertising, sponsorships, pay-per-click (PPC), and influencer marketing. This includes anything where you pay to have your brand messaging disseminated.

Owned media includes platforms or marketing channels your company owns, like your website, brochures, blogs, newsletters, and email campaigns.

On the other hand, earned media requires you to produce a newsworthy, interesting, trending, or educational idea or story. This allows mass media in a specific, targeted industry to feature it without requiring payment from you.

Owned, earned, and paid media: Which one works best?

A major advantage to owned and paid media is the absolute control they provide over your marketing message. This allows you to articulate and share just about anything you want. You also control when and where it will be seen.

While it’s essential that every company has its marketing platforms (like a website to inform and educate prospects), one major disadvantage of owned media is that it’s diminished trustworthiness, as it originates directly from the company instead of an impartial source. You may also be limited in your reach because your website is unlikely to reach enough of the total market.  

With paid media you can solve the issue of reach, or the lack thereof, if you have a large enough budget to throw at the problem – and advertising can be quite expensive. However, investing solely in paid media does not solve the issue of credibility, because like owned media, paid media is inherently biased. Again, this does not make them worthless, but they are definitely worth less than earned media – which is perceived as unbiased.

Plus, according to a study by the New York Times, the average person is shown on average about 5,000 advertising messages every day. Most of those are being ignored, or we would never get anything done.  

3rd-party validation

Earned media, on the other hand, allows you to reach large numbers of potential customers and because the content is from a reputable third party (the media), it is way more credible. Earned media about a product, service, or company is 6 times more visible than an ad and 3 times more credible.

Therefore, earned media is the cash cow of distribution channels. Additionally, research shows that owned and paid media work better when supported by earned content. If owned media is the desired destination, earned media is the vehicle that drives people there.

Why doesn’t everyone utilize earned media?

Earned media, while a popular channel, is still underutilized. One of the reasons for this is that companies are often not aware of it as a possibility. Or if they are, how to go about getting it. While public relations is responsible for securing earned media, many people associate PR with press releases, not realizing the added scope that a PR agency can deliver. In addition to those releases, PR agencies also have connections within the media to pitch a story idea that a journalist can develop into a feature article.

Taking it one step further, some future-thinking PR agencies have solved another issue, which is content creation. These agencies, like Rankin PR for example, have found a way to essentially become contributing writers for a huge number of trade publications. These agencies can write feature articles that are effectively published as is. Of course, it still must fit into the category “worthy of the publication and its readers.”

This means it cannot be overly advertorial or promotional. This is a good thing because your target audience is more likely to engage with a feature article that is educational, insightful, and offers beneficial information for them. 

We can’t say this enough. Your brand reputation is reinforced most when someone else (such as the media) speaks positively about your brand. These narratives build trust and credibility with your audience.

Is it free?

While cliché, there is no such thing as a free lunch and earned media is no different.

It is true that with earned media there is no money being exchanged between the content contributor and the media. However, it’s not exactly free. To garner earned media you have to spend time and resources to create content. Which, again, is worthy of being published.

Earned media is still far more cost-effective than paid media. Placing one single-page ad in publications like Forbes or a trade publication like Tech Briefs can cost about $20,000. Sure, advertising online can be done at a lower budget, but that always means fewer impressions. Public relations companies often charge far less than this and deliver way more than just one publication. 

Why earned media is a powerhouse

The bottom line is that earned media is extremely effective at increasing sales leads and revenue. This is especially if it is part of an ongoing campaign. It builds awareness and recognition. It educates and informs, and it bolsters credibility in the marketplace by solidifying you as an expert or authority in your industry.

If you are ready to grow, it may be time to seek a partnership with a PR agency. We can help you with an earned media strategy and get you in front of more potential buyers. Reach out to Rankin PR to learn more about our B2B PR services.