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What is Earned Media in Simple Terms?

Earned media is a cornerstone of modern marketing, representing the organic buzz and attention that businesses and individuals receive without direct financial investment. Unlike paid advertising, natural exposure includes mentions, shares, reviews, and content generated by third parties such as customers, bloggers, journalists, and social media users. Its value lies in its authenticity and credibility, distinguishing it as an important part of any good marketing strategy. This form of publicity underscores trust and genuine engagement, making it a powerful tool for cultivating brand reputation and audience loyalty.

What is Earned Media vs Paid Media?

Earned media and paid media are two distinct types of media strategies used in marketing and public relations to build brand awareness and engage with audiences.

Earned Media: Publicity gained through methods other than paid advertising. It includes word-of-mouth, mentions, shares, reposts, reviews, or content about your brand picked up by third-party sites or social media users. Organic media is essentially free publicity generated by your audience or other stakeholders. It’s considered highly credible since it’s voluntarily given by others, reflecting genuine interest or satisfaction with your brand or products.

Paid Media: Content you pay to place in front of an audience through advertising or sponsorship. This can include traditional ads, sponsored posts on social media, pay-per-click campaigns, and other paid strategies to increase brand exposure. Paid media allows for targeted audience reach based on specific criteria such as demographics, interests, or location, offering more control over the message and its recipients.

The main difference lies in the acquisition method and credibility; earned media is obtained through audience engagement and satisfaction, offering more authenticity, whereas paid media is bought exposure designed to reach a wide or targeted audience directly.

Why is Earned Media Better than Paid?

Credibility and Trust: Earned media is perceived as more trustworthy and credible because it comes from third-party endorsements rather than directly from the brand itself. This organic form of promotion is seen as a genuine vote of confidence in the brand or product .

Cost-Effectiveness: While free media does require effort in terms of creating content or products that inspire others to talk about your brand, it does not have the direct costs associated with paid advertising campaigns. This can make it a highly cost-effective way to build brand awareness and reputation .

Audience Reach and Engagement: Organic media can often reach a wider and more engaged audience through shares, mentions, and word of mouth. This organic spread can lead to more meaningful interactions with potential customers, as the message comes from a trusted source rather than a paid advertisement .

SEO Benefits: Organic media, especially online mentions and backlinks, can significantly benefit a brand’s search engine optimization (SEO) efforts, improving visibility and organic search rankings more effectively than many paid alternatives .

Overall, the authenticity, trustworthiness, and organic nature of free media make it a valuable component of a comprehensive marketing strategy.

What Does Earned Media Do?

Earned media plays a significant role in marketing and public relations by offering publicity or exposure gained through non-paid means. The primary functions of it are:

Building Brand Awareness: By getting mentioned in various media outlets, a brand can significantly increase its visibility to new and wider audiences .

Enhancing Credibility and Trust: Since earned media is not paid for by the brand, it is generally perceived as more credible and trustworthy by the audience. This organic endorsement can boost a brand’s reputation and reliability in the eyes of potential customers .

Improving SEO and Online Visibility: Mentions, backlinks, and social media engagement through earned media can positively impact a brand’s search engine rankings, leading to increased online visibility and organic traffic .

Stimulating Word-of-Mouth and Viral Potential: Earned media has the potential to go viral, significantly amplifying a brand’s message beyond its existing audience and stimulating word-of-mouth promotion .

In essence, earned media contributes to a holistic marketing strategy by leveraging organic channels to build brand equity, trust, and visibility.

Is Earned Media Credible?

Yes, it is generally considered to be more credible than other forms of media, such as paid media. This credibility stems from the fact that earned media is generated organically. Because it comes from third-party sources like consumers or the press, it carries an inherent trustworthiness.

People tend to trust earned media nearly twice as much as traditional advertising since it is perceived as unbiased and based on genuine customer experiences or independent media coverage. This perception of authenticity and merit makes organic media a valuable asset for brands looking to enhance their credibility and build trust with their target audience .

What are the Disadvantages of Earned Media?

Difficulty to Obtain: Gaining earned media can be challenging. It requires significant effort to create buzzworthy or newsworthy content that compels others to share or talk about your business without any direct incentive .

Lack of Control: Unlike owned or paid media, brands have little control over the content and narrative in free media. This means there’s a risk of negative publicity or messages that don’t align with the brand’s desired image .

Measurement Challenges: It can be harder to track and measure the impact of earned media compared to paid and owned media. While there are tools available, the organic and diverse nature of it makes it difficult to accurately assess its effectiveness .

Potential for Ad Fatigue: While not a direct disadvantage of earned media itself, the competitive landscape of trying to stand out can lead to ad fatigue in audiences, making them less receptive to messages, whether organic or paid .

Overall, while earned media can significantly boost a brand’s credibility and reach, its unpredictability and the challenges in generating and measuring it pose distinct disadvantages.

How Do You Drive Earned Media?

Create and Maintain Media Relationships: Build strong connections with journalists, bloggers, and influencers in your industry. Regularly share valuable information and story ideas with them that could lead to coverage .

Create Interesting and Engaging Content: High-quality, compelling content that resonates with your audience can naturally encourage sharing and discussions online, leading to more earned media .

Utilize All Your Distribution Channels: Share your content across all available platforms (social media, email newsletters, your website) to increase its visibility and the likelihood of it being picked up by others .

Craft Newsworthy Press Releases: Develop press releases for new product launches, events, or significant company achievements that media outlets might find newsworthy.

Leverage Social Media: Actively engage with your audience on social media. Share engaging content, participate in conversations, and encourage user-generated content to boost visibility and attract media attention.

Monitor and Amplify Your Earned Media: Once you gain it, amplify it through your owned and paid channels to increase its reach and impact, and to encourage more in the future .

Focusing on these strategies can help increase your brand’s earned media, thereby boosting your reputation, visibility, and credibility organically.

What Consists of Earned Media?

Is LinkedIn Owned or Earned Media?

LinkedIn can be categorized as both owned and paid media, depending on how it is used:

Owned Media: Your company’s LinkedIn page, posts, and articles that you create and share on your profile are considered owned media. This is content over which you have control and can use to engage directly with your audience .

Paid Media: LinkedIn also offers paid media advertising opportunities, such as sponsored content, advertisements, and influencer sponsorships. When you pay to promote your content on LinkedIn to reach a broader audience, it falls under paid media .

Therefore, LinkedIn serves as a platform for both owned media through the content you create and manage, and paid media through advertising and promotional activities you pay for.

Are Influencers Earned Media?

Influencers can be a part of organic media, but they primarily fall into paid media when they receive compensation (monetary or in-kind) for their content. However, earned influence occurs when influencers talk about a brand without being compensated for it.

This genuine form of promotion happens when influencers genuinely like a brand or product and choose to share their positive experiences with their audience without any form of payment. Therefore, while influencer marketing often starts as paid media, it has the potential to turn into earned media if the influencer’s content leads to additional organic sharing and discussions about the brand by others. The distinction lies in whether the influencer’s promotion is compensated or genuinely organic 

Is TV Earned Media?

TV can be considered earned media when the coverage is not paid for by the company. This includes segments such as interviews, features, and mentions in news programs where the company or its products are discussed positively by the channel or program without any payment or direct advertisement involved. It contrasts with paid TV advertisements where companies pay for ad slots to showcase their products or services. Earned media on TV is valued for its credibility and the potential to reach a wide audience organically, similar to how word-of-mouth or social media shares work .

Are Podcasts Earned Media?

Podcasts can be considered a form of earned media when the content about your brand or product is shared or featured without direct payment or as a result of your marketing efforts. This happens when a podcast host or guest talks about your brand, services, or products positively in their episode because they genuinely appreciate or recommend what you offer, not because they have been compensated to do so.

Such organic mentions are valuable as they come from a place of authenticity and can significantly impact listeners’ perceptions, enhancing your brand’s credibility and reach. However, if a brand pays for a mention or sponsors a podcast, that content would be classified as paid media. The key factor distinguishing earned media in podcasts is the lack of financial incentive for the mention, emphasizing the genuine recommendation or discussion of the brand.

Why Earned Media is a Great Asset for Public Relations

Building Trust and Credibility: Natural exposure naturally builds trust among potential customers and stakeholders. When content about a brand is created not by the brand itself but by reputable third parties, it carries more weight and credibility.

Enhancing Brand Visibility: Organic media significantly boosts brand visibility without the explicit costs associated with paid media. It leverages the networks and audiences of others, spreading your brand’s message further and wider.

Improving SEO and Online Presence: Mentions and backlinks improve a brand’s search engine optimization (SEO), leading to better search rankings and increased online visibility. This, in turn, drives more organic traffic to your website.

Cost-Effectiveness: While it is not always entirely free, as it may involve investment in PR strategies and content creation, it is more cost-effective than paid media. The return on investment can also be significantly higher due to its credibility and the organic engagement it generates.


Earned media stands as a cornerstone in modern marketing and public relations strategies. Its inherent authenticity, credibility, and cost-effectiveness make it a powerful tool for building brand awareness, trust, and engagement. By leveraging the goodwill and advocacy of satisfied customers, influencers, and media outlets, businesses can amplify their reach and visibility without relying solely on paid advertising. Moreover, the organic nature of it contributes to a brand’s long-term reputation and online presence, enhancing its competitive edge in a crowded marketplace. As technology and consumer behavior continue to evolve, organic media remains a vital asset for fostering meaningful connections with audiences and driving sustainable growth for businesses across industries.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What is Earned Media with Example?

Examples include any voluntary mentions of your brand by word-of mouth,  in the press, or on social media. A notable example could be a business that receives a positive review from a well-known industry blogger, leading to increased visibility and credibility without direct investment in advertising for that specific mention.

2. What is Earned Media Also Known As?

Earned media is also commonly known as “free media” or “publicity.” It refers to the coverage or recognition that a person, organization, or brand receives through means other than paid advertising. This form of media is highly valued for its authenticity and the credibility it lends to the brand, as it reflects genuine consumer satisfaction and interest.

3. Why is it Called Earned Media?

It is called “earned media” because it represents the visibility or publicity a brand receives through efforts that are not paid for; instead, this attention is “earned” through the brand’s interactions, reputation, content, and relationships. The term emphasizes the effort and quality required from the brand to create compelling content, engage with its audience, and build a strong reputation that prompts others to talk about, recommend, or promote the brand without direct compensation. 

4. Why is earned media important?

Earned media is valuable because it is seen as more authentic and trustworthy by consumers, as it comes voluntarily from third-party endorsements rather than being paid for by the brand. It helps build credibility, trust, and brand awareness.

5. How can I generate earned media for my brand?

You can generate earned media by creating engaging and shareable content, fostering positive relationships with customers and influencers, providing exceptional products or services, and actively participating in relevant conversations and communities.

6. Is earned media more effective than paid media?

Both earned and paid media have their strengths and can complement each other in a marketing strategy. Earned media is often perceived as more credible and trustworthy, while paid media allows for more control over targeting and messaging.

7. Can earned media be measured?

While measuring earned media can be challenging due to its organic nature, there are various metrics and tools available to track its impact, such as social media engagement, website traffic from referral sources, sentiment analysis, and media monitoring.

8. Is earned media more effective for certain industries? – Earned media can be effective for any industry, but it may be particularly impactful for industries where trust and credibility are crucial, such as healthcare, finance, and consumer goods.

9. What role does earned media play in public relations? – Earned media plays a significant role in public relations by enhancing brand credibility, building trust with stakeholders, shaping brand perception, and increasing positive brand mentions in the media and online

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