Today when we talk about earned media, it no longer only entails the traditional media relations that is gaining coverage on broadcast and print media. The new ‘fad’ in PR today still has everything to do with telling compelling stories, but in ways that encourage the organic sharing and conversation about your content by third parties. As digital spaces become integrated into our daily lives, receiving and sharing stories is becoming increasingly accessible.
From online reviews and comments, to clicking that ‘like’ or ‘retweet’ button, the core essence of earned media is authentic praise. Unlike paid advertising, earned media promises authenticity and presents itself as a more trusted and valuable source of recommendation. Think of it as a classic ‘word-of-mouth’ recommendation in the form of the 21st century digital world.
“Earned media in the digital space is effective because, if placed well, will have undergone a transparent and authentic screening process—either by the publication themselves, or its audiences," said Amanda Munro, Vice President of Public Relations, Clover Point
We can also see the extent of influence earned media can have based on the many cases of ‘things gone viral.’ Stories can now be shared across multiple channels that pass transnational and international borders—a phenomenon that us PR practitioners should do our best to take advantage of. Arguably, the playing field for earned media has never been so empowered by the endless reach that is now enabled through digital.
Lesley Chang, Communications Manager for Tourism Richmond, can further attest to this by adding, “...you don't get to see that kind of engagement in print or broadcast publications, although a lot of the outlets now have online counterparts.”
But if this kind of earned media today is something that occurs organically and naturally, how do we as PR practitioners push for it?
Megan Johnson, Senior Director and Earned Media & Events Lead at Edelman, identifies four distinct types of media—traditional, hybrid, owned, and social. Earned media must intersect across all four types. Its content is engaging and can easily be found on search engines. Once these two foundations—content and search- are set, we can use paid media to more precisely place our content in front of targeted audiences and potential influencers, thus increasing our chances for earned media.