Earned Media vs. Paid Media

Advertising and Public Relations are important but very different means of elevating your brand. A full-scale marketing plan needs both aspects to thrive as they both serve imperative purposes to your business and image.

While there are a growing number of paid promotional vehicles available, a public relations firm will design and engineer a plan to maximize the wide spectrum of earned media opportunities for its clients.

Before we get into earned media. it is important to take into account what (aside from not directly paying for it) makes this form of publicity different from buying ads. Advertising is a controlled form of one’s message where money is exchanged for time, space, links, in-post mentions, product placement (as a few examples) to send the payer’s message out to a mass audience. A good ad placement strategy and excellent content are essential parts to a full brand-building campaign.
Still, one may ask, why the need for earned media if we can just pay for exposure? The answer is manifold: Like advertising, there is a vast landscape of earned media opportunities which can be tapped ahead of one’s competition. While one can place an ad on a television or radio show, earned media extends to becoming part of the program. When one can pay for a link or banner on a blog or an ad in a newspaper, a publicist can also help a client become a trusted expert to be a featured commentator for articles and posts in such venues. A new product, idea or grand opening can turn into a major public event and perhaps a news story. Becoming an in-demand speaker can turn into a series of viral videos. One can become an established media expert in his or her field through earned media.
As mentioned before, unlike attaching promotion to a media venue or event, an earned media strategy is designed to make a PR firm’s client the content and valuable part of a mass media presentation. While this can range from a simple quote to a long feature interview, such appearances are a means to build trust with one’s perspective customers, readers, listeners, clients and partners. A 2017 from the Forrester Group confirms this and perhaps goes a step further: earned media can also create an emotional connection with one’s audience, which can affect a consumer’s buying decisions. Forrester’s research paper deduces both good and bad attitudes toward a brand are shaped by:

  • Emotion: “the variety of emotions that consumers associate with the brand.” According to the report, around three-quarters of brand connection in prospective customers is a result of one’s emotional attitude.
  • Salience: How much in mind is a brand
  • If it fits: what is “relevant to a person’s lifestyle” and how it meets one’s needs at the time.

Earned media as content is a means to create and grow such connections between a brand and potential consumer, partner or client. It also allows one to communicate with them through their preferred print, broadcast and social media channels rather than simply attaching to them. This is an imperative when it comes to not only building a brand, but also a positive overall image.