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What Is Earned Media & How Is It Different From Paid?
May 11th, 2023
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No matter where you are in your PR and marketing journey, one term you absolutely need to understand is “earned media.” It’s likely a central goal that you have for your PR and marketing strategies, even if you don’t really understand quite what it is as of yet. So what is earned media and how is it different from paid? 

Essentially, earned media is media coverage that you get without directly paying for it. Earned media coverage may be pitched or organic coverage, but it’s something that’s earned versus bought. Though earned media can go beyond press coverage (hint: your customer’s glowing review on social media counts!), journalists' reviews and mentions are typically what we’re talking about when discussing earned media coverage. This kind of coverage isn’t only referred to earned because it’s something for which you don’t pay (though that’s a major differentiator), but also because the coverage comes as a result of genuine appreciation and positive experiences with the brand, service, or product.

What’s earned media worth?

Earned media coverage has real value precisely because it’s something that came about as a result of an authentic experience. Because ads are, rightfully, assumed to be rave reviews about a given product or brand, the credibility that comes from earned media coverage relies on the fact that there wasn’t any money exchanged for the review or inclusion that resulted.

Knowing how to get earned media can help you grow your brand in so many ways. Press Hook focuses on earned media because the value of this coverage can help you raise brand awareness, build brand credibility and expertise, and even drive sales. We know that it can be a game-changer for brands both big and small, and it’s why we work so hard to help our clients best position themselves to reap the benefits.

So what, exactly, is paid media?

Like earned media, paid media is essentially what it sounds like. Paid media is media coverage for which a brand pays money. There’s a wide variety of types of paid media, ranging from branded content and sponsored posts to paid search, pay-per-click advertising, and beyond. When it comes to paid media, your brand, product, or service is featured or included in the article because you paid for it to be there.

There are certainly benefits to paid media (you’re able to control the messaging and narrative, you have a say over where your content appears, and you often receive more insights into analytics and reporting), but the big drawback is that, well, those reading the content know that it’s a paid placement (thanks to rules and regulations requiring the disclosure of paid media). Still, it’s a reliable and predictable way to boost your brand’s visibility and can work in tandem with your other efforts.

Earned vs paid media

As you’ve likely gathered by now, the biggest and most obvious difference between paid and earned media is that paid media has a cost attached with it and earned media does not. Similarly, there are also a few differences between the two in terms of perception and editorial control.

Generally speaking, earned media offers no brand control over messaging and the like, while paid media does. You’ll often be able to sign off on the copy itself, the way your brand is presented, where it’s mentioned (and when), and more. With earned media, you take what you can get.

And because earned media is often seen as more authentic and credible, it can be more valuable than paid mentions. Readers often feel they can trust a review from someone who wasn’t paid to say they love something. While a paid review can absolutely be genuine (and hopefully is!), the perception can sometimes be that it’s only positive because of the payment (even if that’s not always a fair assessment of what’s going on behind the scenes).

Earned and paid media both have their place within an overall digital marketing strategy, but there are stark differences between the two. Understanding what makes them different, as well as the benefits and drawbacks of each, is critical to building a successful strategy.

Interested in learning more about how Press Hook can help you elevate your earned media game? Book a call with our team today.