What is Earned Media? A Guide to Expanding Your Reach

Ever wondered how to build better brand credibility and create further reach? Having an earned media strategy is one way to get there. 

The power of publicity is no joke.

And with the web at our fingertips–we all have the opportunity to garner attention in ways never before. Both negative and positive. 

You don’t have to go far to find incredible success stories. Word of mouth sharing, recommendations and reviews continue to fuel many digital startups that have reached unicorn status

So, how can you leverage this fuel of digital publicity for your own brand?

It starts with an earned media strategy that works alongside paid and owned media.

In this guide, we’ll break down:

What’s Earned Media?

Earned media is content and publicity that you earn from others and don’t control directly. The differentiating factor that separates it from paid and owned media is that it’s content you didn’t create or pay for. Common forms of earned media are user-generated content on social media or journalist coverage on 3rd-party news publication websites.


Why Create Earned Media? 

Modern consumers don’t want to be marketed to, so they’re likely to perform their own research before buying. It’s no coincidence that the average person consumes 3-5 pieces of content before making a decision on platforms they trust, whether it be reviews, ratings or recommendations. 

Placing earned media as an end goal puts content in front of your audience when it’s most vital in the sales funnel. But that’s not it, here are other reasons why earned media can fuel your brand. 

  • It creates buzz: The power of ‘word of mouth’ marketing is stronger and more influential than ever in today’s information overload environment. When you’ve created noteworthy content, hosted an event or have made guest appearances, you spark others to share and talk about your brand. It’s a valuable tool to help improve brand awareness and drive traffic and engagement.
  • Boosts credibility: Earned media can build your brand’s credibility through third-party endorsements. Whether that third party is a customer, a reporter or a radio station, the assumption is that that person sharing your story is doing so based on merit, not financial exchange.
  • Expands reach: Earned media, whether it’s TV, newspapers or online, gives businesses the opportunity to expand their reach to a variety of audiences. If you get earned media you might just be discovered and discussed amongst an entirely new audience.
  • It’s “free”: You could say there’s a big investment of your time when it comes to creating content or nurturing relationships with media contacts and PR. But even so, there’s no direct cost from earned media.
  • Improves SEO: If someone shares your Tweet, you might notice a spike in followers. The more of it you get, the more attention you attract. All those mentions improve your SEO results, giving users more reasons to search for your brand through search engines. 

With this said, what does earned media look like in more detail?


What Does Earned Media Look Like?

Whether you’ve provided a great customer experience or not, your audience will surely speak about it. Publicity in the form of earned media looks like:

Types of earned media
  1. Reviews and ratings
  2. Guest blog posts
  3. Press mentions
  4. Social media engagement
  5. Word-of-mouth publicity
  6. Traffic to your website and social channels
1. Reviews and ratings

Raving fans and angry customers all have loud voices now with their ability to leave online reviews and ratings. The power of reviews lies in their objectivity which is why they are so influential. 

2. Guest blog posts

Guest blogging is a mixture of earned and owned media. You can have guest bloggers on your own platform or be a guest blogger on the platform of others. 

3. Press mentions

If you’re picked up in the media, or a journalist interviews you for a story, you’re going to earn credibility and validation. 

Why? People know that reporters and journalists feature businesses for their merit, and not for financial gain. That is, unless it’s a paid sponsored post which would go under paid media. Essentially, journalist coverage is normally editorial content that everyone trusts. 

You might see this as:

  • Journalist/reporter mentions and coverage
  • News stories
  • Magazine articles
  • TV/YouTube channel coverage
  • Blog posts
4. Social media engagement

Social media engagement is how your followers interact with your channels and your posts. To get more likes or comments, you need to create an open line of communication to develop greater trust. 

Because of the transient nature of social media, this makes earned media content great for eliciting conversation and short-term engagement. 

Social media engagement might come in the form of: 

  • Retweets
  • Likes
  • Comments
  • Reposts
  • Shared posts
5. Word-of-mouth publicity

Never underestimate the power of a recommendation from a friend. According to Nielsen, 92% of people trust recommendations from friends and family over any other type of advertising. This isn’t just limited to friends in real life as you might earn publicity through: 

  • A forum recommendation (i.e. Reddit)
  • Communications such as messaging and email
  • Reviews of products, services and experiences (i.e. TripAdvisor)
  • Conversation between friends or family
  • Email forwards
6. Traffic to your website and social channels

You may receive additional traffic to your website and social channels as a result of all the new engagement you’re getting. New traffic equals new prospects.

The unfortunate reality, however, is that earned media is content you don’t directly control, therefore it doesn’t always boost your brand. 

As a result, you might receive negative product reviews and journalist coverage or plain disinformation that sinks your brand’s reputation. 

So how can you counter these downsides from taking place? 

One way is by directing the narrative of your brand. This can be done by having an owned media strategy, such as developing content and having roles designed to address the problems your communities face on social media. 

Now, let’s look at some strategies you can use for earned media (and viral success).

Strategies for Earned Media

If there’s a secret to having your brand’s content spread like wildfire it would be to create and promote unique, research backed and relevant content. Unfortunately, that’s only half the battle as you also need to be aware of the various communication channels and tools that can help expedite the promotion process.

7 Strategies for Earned Media
  1. Create relevant, engaging and shareable content
  2. Use influencer marketing or create a hashtag campaign
  3. Guest post on relevant blogs
  4. HARO
  5. Paid media
  6. SEO
  7. Volunteer
1. Earn recognition through shareable and engaging content

Do you have the ability to conduct industry research or gather company data? You could use these insights to create unique content and promote your brand message and expertise. 

This can look like a posting a series of educational blog posts on outside publications or your own and then promoting it through social channels. 

2. Create a hashtag campaign or partner with influencers

The apparel company Calvin Klein devised a creative hashtag campaign through social media, called “show yours. #mycalvins”. The campaign coincided with the launch of the Calvin Klein’s underwear collection, Calvin Klein Dual Tone. The campaign generated 4.5 million interactions in 4 months. 

If your business is unknown and has very few social mentions, you can always use the power of influencers. You can start by building authentic relationships with relevant influencers who are aligned with your brand’s values and products. 

3. Guest post on relevant blogs

According to Nielson, 66 percent of consumers trust earned media. This includes editorial content (i.e. newspaper articles) and consumer opinions posted online. Compare this to only 42 percent of consumers trusting online banner ads, 43 percent for mobile ads and 46 percent for social networks.

Leverage this trust given to editorial content by guest posting on relevant blogs or publications. Don’t randomly offer to write for as many blogs as possible. Consider what their niche is, who their audience is and whether they’re even an authority in their field. Don’t know how to write? Work with freelancer writer. 

4. Help A Reporter.com connects you with journalists

Help a Reporter Out (HARO) is a publicity service that connects reporters and journalists to professionals and experts.

Reach out via email and send press releases and a personal message to connect. You never know you might get your news picked up. And If you become a regular expert voice for a reporter, that in turn provides you with ongoing free publicity.

5. Paid media helps boost earned media

Earned media coverage can be a byproduct of paid media coverage. Paid media can be any paid advertising model. For example, Pay Per Click (PPC) places your ads around search engine results, where you pay each time a user clicks on one of your ads.

Not familiar with Paid Media?

Here’s a guide.

6. Have journalists or professionals/freelancers be authored in articles

Everyone wants entertaining and interesting content. But the other thing that gets people excited is access to great experts.

You should leverage their star power. Showcasing other professionals rounds out your blog and validates your expertise at the same time. 

Experts can include:

  • Authors 
  • Bloggers 
  • Speakers
  • Business owners, entrepreneurs
  • Managers, department heads
7. Use SEO to earn organic traffic

Optimizing your website for higher rankings means you’re having a higher exposure in search engine results. 

With more exposure in the quadrillions of searches, the more publicity and recognition you’re likely to get. It’s simple. And the more users view your website and love your content, the more likely you are to receive shares, comments and likes.


Key Takeaways for Earned Media

Why is earned media so important? 

Because in our age of information overload and endless impersonal advertising, it shines as a trustful beacon of light to audiences throughout. 

And to truly maximize the upside and minimize the downside (negative reviews, etc) for your brand, you’d need to employ all three media strategies the right way. 

Here’s a recap:

  • Earned, owned and paid work in tandem. For instance, great publicity is built off the content you create and the reach you’ve gained by paying to promote that content.
  • A content strategy will minimize the downside of negative publicity and allow you to take control of your brand’s narrative.
  • Great publicity requires partnerships and collaborative efforts. Don’t do this alone, connect with reporters through HARO, influencers on social media and other media actors.
  • Recommendations from friends and reviews are the most trusted form of advertising. Take part in the conversation and try to stimulate your own by finding the online hubs where your audiences hang out, such as forums and Facebook groups.

Having a well thought out and implemented media strategy takes time, testing and a lot of effort. Don’t be discouraged if things aren’t going your way and the results aren’t what you expected. Just stay consistent, be honest about your process and refine what doesn’t work!

Written By Terry Say

Terry's an editor and SEO strategist for Advesa. There’s nothing content and SEO he won’t get involved in. We tried, he just always finds a way to put his hands on things! Aside from work, Terry calls himself a ‘stand-up comedy connoisseur’, and enjoys watching intense tournaments in the world of E-sports.