Earned media, also known as earned content, is any material written about a company that was not paid for or created by them. Even though a third party is responsible for publishing earned media, there are ways for marketers to position themselves for these opportunities. Earned media is basically “publicity” in many ways. Since a company did not pay for this media to be created as is the case with an advertisement, their actions “earned” them this attention. However, over the last 30 years, the places where we obtain information have changed. For this reason, a company’s attention must also shift when seeking opportunities for earned media.

According to Nielsen’s 2015 Global Trust in Advertising report, earned media is the most trustworthy type of advertising due to its independence. They discovered that 83 percent of people trust recommendations from family and friends. In the modern digital world, that trust can extend to review sites, news media, and social influencers. What our family and friends tell us that they’ve read and seen online has a big influence on today’s consumers. People no longer only discuss the good, the bad, and the ugly of brands at the water cooler; they now share it with everyone they’re connected with online, which could be hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people.

Many of those people not only listen to the stories but also use them to make purchasing decisions. In fact, according to HubSpot Research, when exploring new products, 57% of people in the United States trust what they hear from friends and family the most. About a third of buyers in the United States prefer to rely on information obtained through a Google search. Earned media will continue to evolve alongside digital marketing and social media. Moreover, departments other than public relations, such as marketing and customer service, will be more responsible for capturing earned media attention.

Types of Earned Media 

1) News coverage/press mentions 

In this type of media, a journalist may mention your company’s brand in a story or write an entire article about you. News coverage or press mentions can both result in your brand appearing in newspapers, magazines, and TV/radio news segments.

2) Interviews 

Internal stakeholders within your company may be interviewed by a newspaper, news channel, trade publication, blog, podcast, or other high-impact media to share more information about the product or any recent developments with their audience. Since a third party conducts interviews, they are usually non-promotional and thus regarded as a trustworthy source of information.

3) Product reviews 

Product reviews are an excellent example of how the internet has given everyone a platform to express their opinions. A journalist, blogger, or customer can share their thoughts on your company’s products or services. A blogger, for example, may write a blog or record a video about their product. In contrast, a customer may write a product review on your website (testimonial for B2B organizations) or directories like Yelp, TripAdvisor, and so on.

4) Influencer shoutouts 

This isn’t typical influencer marketing, where you pay someone to promote your company’s products. Here, your brand gets a shoutout from an influencer or industry expert who isn’t affiliated with it. This influencer shoutout can have an impact on your community, making it an effective promotion strategy.

5) Organic and direct traffic 

Even though your company’s website counts as owned media, you must do what it takes to earn organic traffic to this website. When you create content that people value, your site’s search engine ranking improves, and this ranking acts as social proof for your brand. Any direct traffic is a result of someone’s familiarity with your brand. When people know precisely what they want and go to your brand’s website to get it, this is evidence of the perfect mix of trust and brand recall.

6) Brand synonymity

The pinnacle of earned media is brand synonymity. Brand synonymity refers to customers using a brand’s name to refer to a similar white-label product. For example, to refer to photocopying, people say Xerox, and to look something up on the internet, they say Google. Since many industries are still in its infancy, innovators can achieve brand synonymity. Newer players will be unable to achieve brand synonymity as the industry matures.

Earned Media Best Practices 

It isn’t easy to develop an earned media strategy that will ensure news coverage across all media outlets and make your brand the talk of the town. After all, you can’t control how a journalist will pick up your story or a blogger will review your product. You can, however, increase the likelihood of such occurrences by taking specific steps. Let’s look at five earned media best practices you can use for your brand.

1) Create valuable and share-worthy content 

In the end, the success of your company’s content marketing comes down to the content that you create. If you want your prospects, customers, and influencers to talk about your brand, you should provide valuable content that these people would like to share with their networks. You can add value to your target audience by creating content that inspires, informs, engages, or entertains them. You should not limit yourself to text-based content when creating content. Experimenting with videos, podcasts, infographics, quizzes, and other interactive content can significantly increase the shareability of your content.

2) Connect with journalists and influencers 

The key to a successful earned media strategy is to cultivate long-term relationships. Every day, journalists and influencers receive up to hundreds of press releases, requests for mentions, and interviews. It can be discouraging when these media professionals don’t respond to your pitches, so it’s not surprising that most companies don’t want to send them anymore. The mistake these companies make lies in their approach. In order to successfully pitch your media contacts, you need to focus on building a rapport before it’s time to send a pitch for a news story. You can accomplish this in a variety of ways. For starters, take time to learn what your target media contacts write about and for whom they write. Two tech bloggers, for example, may appeal to two different audiences. You will be able to pitch stories at the right time if you know the stories they are working on and their lead times.

Finding the right journalists and influencers for a brand can take a lot of time and effort. For this reason, it might help to partner with a PR agency like Pressfarm. The Pressfarm team is filled with experts who are good at not only finding the best journalists in a variety of industries but also building long-term relationships with them. These experts can also help you to create quality content that will appeal to these media professionals and direct their attention to your brand. With a professional press release, an eye-catching media kit and a few engaging guest posts, you can capture media attention and generate curiosity among your target audience.

Pressfarm goes one step further to distribute this content widely, ensuring that your target audience sees it when it matters most. By submitting your brand to the right startup directories, media outlets and professional networks, Pressfarm can boost your online presence across search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing!

As a client, you also get custom media lists containing the best contacts in your niche, in addition to year-long access to a media database of 1 million+ journalists, bloggers and influencers. With all these media contacts, you can build mutually beneficial relationships with members of the media and do extended media outreach for your brand long after the team at Pressfarm has wrapped up your campaign.

3) Deliver amazing customer experiences 

Customers will talk about and promote your brand if they have a memorable customer experience (CX). Providing excellent customer service from the first interaction and then proactively resolving complaints and creating unique experiences throughout the buyer’s journey can ensure that customers are satisfied with your company’s CX. They’ll gladly sing your praises on social media, offer product feedback, and become brand ambassadors. Underground or independent bands and musicians, for example, have street teams – a group of dedicated fans who volunteer to help with promotional tasks such as putting up posters, calling radio stations to request airplay, and so on. These fans have become advocates for the band as a result of their enjoyment of their music.

4) Build communities 

Building communities is one of the most effective ways to turn customers into brand advocates. You can start a community of your own by contributing to existing social media conversations and increasing engagement. You can also use social media to introduce your brand to strangers. You can also identify the right queries to respond to using the brand and its products, or industry-related searches, leading potential customers to your website. This proactive communication method demonstrates to customers that your company cares.

5) Develop thought leadership 

People regard a company that has become a thought leader as an authority in their field. This has a direct impact on how people view the brand. You can boost your efforts by guest blogging in addition to creating content for your owned media. You can then pitch your ideas to premium publications and become columnists after you’ve earned a reputation as a successful guest blogger.

Advantages of Earned Media 

When a potential customer sees any of your earned media, your chances of building relationships and trust with this person go up. Let’s start with the top three benefits of using earned media:

1) Drives awareness

Early-stage companies have a difficult time breaking through the noise to communicate their message. Earned media provides them with opportunities to grow their audience. Guest blogging, social listening, responding to media mentions, filming interviews, and generating press coverage are all ways for brands to raise awareness. One action can have a domino effect that expands a company’s reach. For example, if your startup founder is interviewed by a reputable magazine, your reach will increase, helping you attract more customers and become more visible.

2) Builds credibility

Your credibility only grows stronger as people talk about your brand more and more. People could be talking about your product/service or the customer experience (CX). Earned media relies on word-of-mouth to some extent. The more positive feelings a brand generates, the more trustworthy it becomes. Recording and publishing interviews, writing guest posts, and contributing to columns are examples of thought leadership tactics that demonstrate your expertise and strengthen your credibility.

3) Improves ROI 

Paid media is determined by the amount of money you are willing to invest, whereas earned media is determined by the relationships you cultivate. Companies that make an effort to build relationships with journalists, influencers, and customers are more likely to have people talking about their products. Once you develop these relationships, your communities will continue to help you promote the brand, thus improving your ROI immediately.

Disadvantages of Earned Media 

While there are some drawbacks to earned media, none of them should prevent your company from experimenting with this PR strategy.

1) Less control over the messaging 

A disgruntled customer might write a scathing review about a bad experience with your brand, or a journalist might call your brand’s latest campaign into question. Your company ultimately has no control over the narrative that third-party entities spread. The coverage you get from your media outreach has the potential to be either positive and negative. In a matter of seconds, a public relations disaster can tarnish your company’s image. As a result, you must be extra cautious about the way you portray yourself on owned and paid media.

If this situation arises, PR professionals can work with you to create crisis communications plans to communicate with the public, your investors, and other organizations. Crisis communication is a strategic approach to communicating with people and organizations during a disruptive event. Proactive, timely, and detailed communication is critical in the event of a crisis. In the event of a major crisis or danger, your company should have an emergency communication plan in place that outlines the procedure for disseminating information.

2) Success isn’t guaranteed 

Regardless of how much time you spend cultivating relationships with journalists or public relations professionals, there is no guarantee that your content will be featured in a specific publication. In the end, it all comes down to the brand’s quality and value.

3) It takes a while to see results

Earned media does not produce immediate results, and it requires a significant amount of effort on your part. There is no set schedule or way to prepare for this. Rather, you need to take your time and nurture these relationships for as long as you need to. First, you must create amplified content for owned media and social media. Secondly, you need to invest time in developing long-term relationships. Finally, you need to review what has worked and what hasn’t gone. so well in the past so that you can develop an effective strategy.

Ultimately, the key to success with earned media lies in being able to experiment with different strategies and tactics then developing a formula that works for your brand. While earned media is seen as a lucrative medium for generating influence, you must be willing to put in the effort and be patient until you see results.