In the world of advertising and public relations, the best strategies often utilize both paid and earned media in a holistic approach to help an organization reach its goals. Paid advertising may seem fairly straightforward, but generating organic interest can be challenging even for the most experienced PR pros. Earned media is often compared to a wild animal, due to its uncontrolled nature. A comprehensive campaign allows for both paid and earned media to flourish, with each side helping the other be more effective.
EARNED MEDIA VS. PAID MEDIA
Paid media refers mostly to traditional advertising. For example, print ads, television commercials, digital ads, social media ads, and paid influencers all fall under this category. If you’re paying for the opportunity for people to see your campaign, it’s paid media. Earned media, on the other hand, is any endorsement or promotion that you don’t pay for. This might be a mention by a journalist on the news or an article in the local paper, but in the digital age, earned media also includes high organic search rankings, shares on social media, and online reviews.
The biggest difference between earned media and paid media is that paid media is controlled. You are in charge of the message that you send to your audience, when and where you share it, and you can track the results meticulously. Earned media is uncontrolled—you can pitch as much as you want, but that doesn’t guarantee a journalist will pick up your story, and even if they do, you don’t necessarily get to control the message.
Why Earned Media Matters
According to Nielsen, earned media continues to be the most trusted advertising format in the world. Earned media is more credible because, generally, organizations have to do genuinely good things in order to get it. A company that is rumored to have excellent customer service had to serve its customers very well to generate that buzz. It’s considered a more objective, unbiased form of promotion, and goes a long way in the eyes of the public.
Earned media also has the tendency to grow exponentially. We see this most commonly in the form of viral content—someone creates an interesting or compelling post and others share it, without the creator paying them to do so. Unfortunately, this is a double-edged sword—negative buzz can grow just as quickly, if not more so, than positive buzz.
sooo does anyone else not open Snapchat anymore? Or is it just me… ugh this is so sad.
— Kylie Jenner (@KylieJenner) February 21, 2018
Following a Snapchat app update, influencer Kylie Jenner sent out this tweet–which resulted in Snapchat stock plummeting almost immediately. This is an excellent example of the true power that influencers have, especially if they aren’t being paid for promotions.
Of course, the best part about earned media is that it’s “free,” but you know how the saying goes—there’s no such thing as a free lunch. There may not be a direct cost associated with earned media, but you still invested valuable time and energy behind the scenes.
GENERATING EARNED MEDIA
There are thousands of ways to generate earned media, but many of those can be boiled down into a few simple, easy-to-remember tactics that will get you started. We use these tactics on a daily basis as part of our larger, comprehensive strategies, but they work well on their own, too. Learning the basics of creating earned media can set you up for success in the long run.
Create interesting content
At Archer & Hound, this is one of our most useful tools. If we can create content that is interesting and beneficial to our clients’ audiences, that content is more likely to be shared—whether it’s a blog, a social post, or a video.
Develop relationships in the community
It’s great to be friends with your local journalists, but some of the best relationships you can forge are with thought leaders in your area. Some examples of potential community influencers are business owners, local government officials, club presidents, or nonprofit directors.
Share newsworthy occasions
If something is going on with your business that you want the public to know about, share it! Tell your friends and family, local news stations, and your followers on social media—but beware of trying to make news out of nothing. You might lose credibility by trying to make a big deal out of something that isn’t newsworthy, so evaluate your newsworthiness before pitching a story to help you decide how, when, and where to share your update.