What is Earned Media? Tips and Strategies for Earned Media Publicity

Megan Smith
Nihaal Shah
Published: Dec 09, 2021
Last Updated:
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Terms like "blended" and "holistic" are often associated with digital media strategy, but it can be hard to figure out what goes into the mix. One way to break down the components is the PESO model of marketing: shared, owned, paid, and earned media.

This article will briefly touch on all four types, with an emphasis on earned media.

Along with developing your content strategy and paying for ads, you want to involve more people in the conversation. This can be through user-generated content and other forms of media created by current and potential customers.

Earned Media


What Is Earned Media?

Earned media refers to all content and publicity about your business that is neither created nor paid for by your business. It includes dinner conversations, news articles about your brand, customer tweets, and even posts ranking on search engines.

Earned Media Value

Earned media comes with several benefits. First, it’s free — or it can be. Many companies do put a large amount of money into attracting earned media.

Second, it has all the credibility of a third-party source. Who do you trust more? A fitness facility that claims to be the best in the city or a health and wellness blogger who raves about the gym? Consumers rely far more on third-party testimony. For example, 93% of them read reviews before making a purchase.

Finally, earned media is often more visible than other forms. We’ve all developed a startling amount of ad blindness, ignoring the overt advertisements that interrupt our content of choice. Earned media, on the other hand, attracts your target audience that regularly engages with the topic or source.

Other Kinds of Media

So, if that's the E, what about the P, S, and O? These kinds of media should play a role in your marketing efforts, too.

Owned Media

Owned media refers to the proprietary content that you produce. It includes:

  • Website
  • Emails
  • Newsletters
  • Social media posts
  • Blog posts
  • Articles
  • Videos

In short, owned media is all the material that you create and/or to which you own the rights.

Spoon and Stable Website
A business’s website is usually one of its most important pieces of owned media. This website belongs to the Minneapolis fine-dining establishment Spoon and Stable, which is also the subject of the following pictures.

You exert more control over owned media than anything else. As a result, it offers unparalleled opportunities for branding and thought leadership.

Paid Media

Paid media is exactly what it sounds like. It’s external marketing that relies on paid placement. It includes traditional advertising as well as pay-per-click (PPC) ads, branded content, and digital display ads.

There are some things you can only accomplish through paid media. It gives you opportunities for exposure that you wouldn’t get organically. It also comes with ways to measure your success — built-in metrics that let you track your return on investment (ROI) more directly.

Shared Media

Shared media is content published through third-party platforms such as social media or shared between multiple owners. This includes forms of engagement, like sharing, liking, and commenting. When it comes to creating and keeping in touch with a community, shared media's inherent interactive nature places it well ahead of the other three kinds.

Spoon and Stable Business Facebook Page


Types of Earned Media and Tips for Your Earned Media Strategy

Now, it's time to focus on earned media. Each of the following earned media examples comes with a tip to help you adopt the type of content as part of your comprehensive strategy.

Press Coverage

Press coverage ranges from a blogger citing you as an industry authority to a front-page article to a Channel 5 News exposé on your unsafe business practices. In other words, it’s good to remember that there is such a thing as bad publicity.

But most press coverage doesn’t run in national newspapers or other outlets. This category also includes bloggers and trade publications — channels that often target exactly the niche you most want to reach.

Eater Article for Spoon and Stable
This Eater piece profiles Spoon and Stable. It’s not a specific meal review or paid feature, just a short article celebrating the Minneapolis restaurant.

Not all coverage will be exclusive to your business. A common type of content is a roundup of products, destinations, services, etc. You want to appear next to your competitors in these pieces. Sometimes, you can even benefit from the reflected glow of a more established brand.

Discover the Cities Listicle
Spoon and Stable also gets a mention as one of the 10 best farm-to-table restaurants in this listicle put out by Discover the Cities.

Tip: Use Press Releases

Press releases are short reports on the exciting news of your business. True, they can feel a little dated in this largely digital world, but they still have a place in your earned media strategy.

Let journalists know when you have a major event or a new product release coming up. Craft a short announcement that is clear, concise, and compelling. Keep it to a single page or about 300 to 400 words.

Distribute it to the various journalists and outlets that might be interested and cross your fingers. Ideally, they will then spread the word in some form or another. If it’s a really interesting story, you might even get a small feature out of it.

Be prepared for most of your press releases to disappear into the great void of unanswered emails. It’s still worth doing.

Tip: Don’t Be Shy

Put yourself forward as a source for journalists, a guest for podcasts, a host for events, and any other appearance you can imagine. There are a couple of websites that make it easy to find journalists looking for brands and business owners. HARO, Help a Reporter Out, lets journalists submit queries and distributes them to registered sources. If something relevant pops up, you can pitch the journalist directly.

The podcast version of HARO is Matchmaker.fm, which helps hosts find guests and vice versa.

Tip: Get Creative

Stunt marketing can backfire, so think things through before you commit. But a little creativity can help you reap truly outsized rewards. Just ask the PR professionals behind such stunts as KFC’s visible-from-space ad or Tinder’s dog-adoption campaign or other buzz-worthy publicity stunts.

Is there an unexpected use to which you can put your product or services? Or an attention-grabbing promotion you want to do?

Take a tip from the British Air Service, whose motto is “Who Dares Wins.”

Public Mentions and Placements

Every time your product visibly appears or is mentioned in a media outlet, it counts as earned media — whether or not you’re the subject of the piece.

Most often, this happens through social media channels, so it combines shared and earned media. It might include hashtags related to your brand, social media mentions, location tagging, or another form of social media engagement.

An effective digital marketing strategy is to create content that generates public mentions and placements to extend the reach of your brand.

spoon and stable instagram hashtag
#SpoonAndStable on Instagram collects a lot of content together. Some of it directly concerns a diner’s meal. Other material announces engagements, date nights, or reunions with friends — implicitly identifying the restaurant as an ideal location for any special occasion.

Tip: Make It a Conversation

When someone posts content that features you, respond. You can offer them compliments or tips, or you can simply like their post. Reply to good and bad reviews, and connect with your audience.  They’ll be more likely to post more content about you if they feel like part of your community.

Tip: Set Them Up to Look Good

This can mean different things for different industries and platforms. It might be an invitation to comment on a fun topic or to show off their best life hack.

Brick-and-mortar businesses can also benefit from social media shoutouts. Hair salons can provide flattering light and an easily spotted neutral backdrop for online posts. Recreational businesses can offer up fun props or set pieces. Restaurants can post flattering table and plate arrangements. If you give people something to share on social media, you're encouraging more earned media.

Tip: Cultivate Your Relationships With Influencers

Not all posts are created equal. Some have more reach and power than others. Contact individual influencers, making them more likely to post about you.

Earned media includes organic, unpaid influencer marketing. You can make influencers more likely to feature you by following them and engaging with their content.

Influencer Earned Media
Spoon and Stable may appreciate everyone who posts about the restaurant, but the business probably prizes content from an industry expert or influencer such as this beautiful post from Foodieapolis, a Twin-Cities foodie with over 48,000 foodie followers.

Online Reviews

Google, Yelp, Facebook, and industry directories all provide discerning consumers with the information they need to make informed choices.

You can’t neglect your online reviews. Thank positive reviews and engage with customers who provide bad reviews. And remember that quantity matters. Consumers are much more likely to trust a business with hundreds of publicly satisfied customers than one with a few couple five-star reviews.

Yelp Reviews
Yelp reviews might be particularly important for retailers and restaurants such as Spoon and Stable, but almost every industry has at least one important trusted source of reviews.

Tip: Ask for Reviews — Then Ask Again

There are many ways to optimize your approach, but one of the most important things you can do is ask for a product review. Busy customers don’t always think about leaving reviews. They’ve moved on to something else before they’ve even left the building. Remind them that their endorsement matters.

Make the process as easy for them as possible. Provide links to your preferred review sites in online communication and a QR code on site. Some customers might appreciate examples or even a template.

You can also make your own life easier. Automate follow-up emails that request reviews. Personalize them with their names and the service or product the consumer bought, but take the burden of memory off yourself. Besides, supplication is exhausting — perform the work in bulk.

Word of Mouth

Word of mouth hasn’t changed much in centuries, and it has as much power now as ever. You know that your business is great. Encourage people to spread the word, and don’t be too proud to ask friends and family to get in on the action.

Tip: Start a Referral Program

Admittedly, this might fall in the gray area between earned and paid publicity. But customers generally won’t recommend businesses they don’t like to their friends. Nor are they that incentivized by the chance to receive further discounts or other promotions from the brand.

Setting up a referral program isn’t too hard. And it helps you both keep existing customers and attract new ones.

Creating Your Earned Media Strategy

Approach earned media in the same way that you would lead generation. Don’t wait for the media to come to you. Target earned media channels and cultivate the right relationships for your business and future marketing campaigns.

When done well, earned media should complement your paid advertisements and owned content. Earned media can be more uncertain than its alternatives, and you shouldn’t chase journalists — formal or informal — at the expense of your other channels. But it should play a role in your content marketing strategy.


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