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What is Earned Media and Why is it Important?

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Earned media is probably the most popular tactic amongst public relations (PR) professionals. It has been the bread and butter of the industry for decades but it isn’t just a tactic strictly for PR pros. I practice a hybrid of digital marketing and PR that I reference as marketing communication. Earned media is an important part of what I do.

This is the second of four articles in which we are digging deeper into each element of the PESO model. Last week talked about paid media and in the coming weeks, we will talk about the last two elements: shared media and owned media. But, today we are talking about earned media so strap in and let’s get started.

What is Earned Media?

Earned media can best be described as placing stories or interviews with media outlets such as television, newspapers, radio, and even blogs. You might better know it as media relations.

It is often seen as a way to get free coverage (of course there is a cost if you’ve hired somebody to do it for you) and it’s a good way to generate awareness about your company or a product. It’s also a good way to build authority and trust.

Telling you about earned media isn’t as effective as showing you some examples. I have four instances that were placed in different mediums. Two were on television, one was is from a newspaper website, and one is from a PR website.

As we go through these examples I am going to talk about the significance of the placement.

Earned Media examples from Television

Our first example is a video that originally aired on KTVB, a local station in my area.

The holidays are typically a time when we all tend to eat more than normal which can lead to weight gain. In this segment, we have Cristy Nickel, who is an author, nutritionist, and personal trainer giving tips for eating at Thanksgiving.

There are two things happening in this example. The first is Cristy is showing her expertise. This is important in helping get new business. If somebody believes you know what you are doing, the more likely they are to do business with you.

Second, her company, Code Red, was brought up twice. Regardless of Cristy’s position at Code Red, she is a representative of the company and her appearance is promoting it.

The next example is from 2006 when Apple made a change from PowerPC chips that were being supplied by IBM to Intel chips. It was a pretty big deal for both Apple and Intel.

Software for Macs didn’t run on the Intel chip architecture so this wasn’t going to be an easy move for Apple. There were questions about how they were going to pull it off.

Here’s Steve Jobs on CNBC talking about Apple’s move (along with some questions about Pixar and the iPod).

For this segment, Jobs wasn’t plugging the company. People already knew about Apple. He was there to talk about the transition. The interviewer called the move dramatic but Jobs says, not really it’s just a change to a new vendor.

His job in this interview was to reassure investors and customers. Yes, it’s a big move to change processors but it’s going to be good. Apple is going to be fine if not better in the long run.

Earned Media in Newspapers

I found this article on the website of the Idaho Statesman, located in Boise. Below is the link for the article on the site and the text of the article

The article is essentially information about an event by Susan G. Komen to raise money for breast cancer. It gives all the pertinent information that one would need to know including contact information.

The importance of this article is it is generating awareness for the event. After all, nobody will consider attending if they don’t know about it.

Earned Media on Websites

We will look at one more quick example from PRDaily, which you probably guessed is a PR website. For this example, I’m going to only show you the link on the page and the “footer” of the article.

As you can see, a version was already posted on the Spin Sucks blog. If you went to Spin Sucks you would see that it is a PR/Marketing blog. Right now you are probably thinking, why place an article on a PR site when the original article was posted on a blog that was basically for the same type of audience?

PRDaily and Spin Sucks have a similar audience but PRDaily’s readers probably don’t completely overlap with Spin Sucks readers. There was a time that I was a regular reader of Ragan but hadn’t heard of Spin Sucks.

This is an opportunity to get in an article in front of an audience who may not be familiar with them. The hope is if a reader really likes this article they will visit Spin Sucks to check out the content but there is another reason why Laura placed this article with PRDaily.


The link you see referring the reader to Spin Sucks is an example of what is called a linkback. This placement was to help Spin Sucks in its search engine optimization (SEO) efforts (if you go back to our Susan Komen example you’ll notice a linkback as well).

In an effort to improve its chances of ranking high in Google search results, Spin Sucks is using this article placement to improve its domain authority (credibility) with Google. The higher the domain authority a site has the higher it will rank in Google search results (you can read more about this here).

Linkbacks are very important in SEO efforts as well as measuring where website traffic is coming from. If you are doing any earned media, it doesn’t matter where you place the article/interview you want to ask for a link back to your website.

Final Thoughts

These examples were placed in different places and had different objectives but they are all earned media at work.

When using earned media, always think of what you are trying to accomplish and who you are trying to reach. This will help you determine where you are going to pitch.

And if you don’t remember anything else remember this: Ask for the linkback.

Shane Carpenter
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