PR is Earned Media

We have heard this statement often: Advertising is paid media, Public Relations is earned media. Even professionals get confused and sometimes cannot pinpoint the difference between Advertising and Public Relations.

Advertising is ‘paid media’, which means ads are paid for. And Public Relations is ‘earned media’, which means you convince journalists to write a positive story about your client, your candidate, your client’s brand or any issue or cause.  Typically, it appears in the editorial section of the newspaper (broadsheet or tabloid), magazine, TV channel, Radio FM channel or online, rather than the ‘paid media’ section where advertising messages or even paid content appear.  Your story in the editorial section is more credible because it was independently verified and published by a trusted third party, who is supposedly objective; while ads are purchased and moreover, you say what you want to say about your brand, which takes away objectivity.

Here, the basic idea is the believability or credibility of an article versus an advertisement.  So, an article appears to be more valuable than an advertisement.  Right?

What is ‘earned media’?

Earned media, while not a media platform in the conventional sense, is what marketers traditionally view as PR. Earned media is any content created about a marketer or brand that wasn’t directly created or commissioned by that marketer.

Some quick checkpoints about ‘earned media’:

  • Gets people to talk about your brand
    Whether it appears on social media or third party media, earned media gets other people talking about your company and/or brand  especially customers, influencers, opinion leaders and other media entities. Earned media also includes mentions in everyday conversations as well as at events and conferences. Ideally, earned media encourages prospects to become interested enough in your offering, so that they could perhaps try it out.  In digital, this encompasses PR and social media platforms.
  • Exposure for your brand
    Earned media is exposure you gain for your brand without having to pay for it. Generally speaking, this happens when others find your content to be valuable enough, so that they want to share it with their audience, either by writing about it, talking about it, or sharing it. It can also mean that you can go out and try different campaigns to do something to, well, “earn” them. This can come in the form of publishing great content, announcing something impactful, or proactively engaging in interaction with third parties such as potential customers and influencers.
  • Reach an audience without paying
    You could say that earned media are those channels through which you can reach clients and potential clients without having to pay for them. Even in the channels owned by you like your blog or website, you still have to work hard to “earn” the traffic.  Besides your blog, your Facebook page is earned media, your Twitter account is earned media, and so on.
  • Earn visibility
    Brands can ‘earn’ the traffic and visibility by being trustworthy and delivering insights and value to the TG or audience.  Earned media is definitely a form of publicity – it could be rave reviews from brand advocates or trolling on Twitter by angry or unhappy customers.
  • Produces measurable, trackable results
    The impact of earned media is measurable. While it’s not ‘paid’ promotion, earned media does require a lot of work and effort; and it also needs a budget to be successful and achieve results.
  • Uncontrolled media
    From the perspective of content, earned media is “uncontrolled” media. You don’t pay for it. You don’t create it. You don’t publish it. Here, it is when others choose to create content around your product or service. It’s also often perceived as the most authentic. While press coverage is one traditional form, earned media now also takes the form of individual social media posts, likes, blogger coverage, links, rants – you name it.
  • Attention is premium
    In an economy where attention is at a premium, and everyone is fighting for their 30 seconds of fame, or to be in the spotlight, earned media is the ability to not just earn attention but have others share your message.
  • Involves building relationships
    With global consumers placing the highest weightage on trust in earned media, what friends and co-workers term ‘cool, must-use, helpful, fun or effective’ is critical to getting a new product or service accepted. And, then it goes on to building relationships by engaging with the stakeholders.
  • Supports achieving your business objectives
    Earned media has the potential to move consumers up the brand ladder from awareness to acceptance and can be a fantastic force in launching and building brands, businesses and organizations through authentic third-party testimonials.
  • Credible storytelling
    The power of PR has always been based on the ability to tell a good story, which must be original, credible, relevant and most of all, engaging. You must reach out to all stakeholders – third party influencers, including the media, shareholders, to pick-up your story and share it with their friends, family and communities. This freely shared content, without compensation, is what earned media is.

Earned media is essential in the new social world of content marketing where the circle of influencers – friends, family, journalists rank highest in the ‘trustworthy’ scale in info-sharing.

Shree Lahiri
Shree is the Senior Editor at Reputation Today and hopes to move from one focus area to another in the editions that will be released this year. Having worked in Corporate Communications teams, she has experience of advertising, public relations, investor and employee communications, after which she moved to the other side – journalism. She enjoys writing and believes the power of the pen is indeed mighty. Covering the entertainment beat and the media business, she has been involved in a wide range of activities that have thrown open storytelling opportunities.

She can be reached at: @shree_la on twitter

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