Consumer brand communications hinges on one core goal: getting in front of the right audience. However, for many businesses, this rarely surpasses the stage of paid media marketing. Could this be due to the fact that many companies feel out of their depth when it comes to strategically navigating the space beyond paid media coverage? An example is the perplexity around common marketing terminology like paid and earned media. So paid vs earned media, what’s the deal?
Although this may seem like semantics to some, the reality is that earned media coverage, specifically from reputable or industry-specific journals, carries unparalleled weight in the eyes of potential clients, partners, and investors. Although this doesn’t negate the power of paid media, businesses can’t afford to cast it in the same bucket and ignore its strategic brilliance.
In this piece, we’re looking at the difference between ‘earned’ and ‘paid’ media and how understanding the unique characteristics of each can help elevate industry visibility, drive growth, and craft compelling narratives that help consumer brands excel over competitors.
What is paid media?
Paid media refers to marketing or advertising forms that companies pay for directly. The exposure is purchased. Although it’s often considered low-hanging fruit, it remains an essential staple of a healthy, balanced PR and content strategy.
One of the key differentiators between paid and earned media is that in paid media, businesses control some elements, including content (which is often still editorially approved). Still, it varies from advertising spots in that there are no variables for targeting or reach criteria. However, because it’s paid content, you know the piece will run. Once approved, it’s guaranteed. Formats include media types such as sponsored posts, native ads, and, sometimes, social influencer campaigns.
This makes it particularly great for establishing a startup brand. Paid media excels in providing context and awareness, especially when running paid ad campaigns alongside sponsored content.
Almost all successful consumer brands have some sort of paid media campaigns and purchase exposure to help reach a wider audience and increase their brand visibility. Today’s readers understand sponsored content; they accept it when the content is good, but they also understand it differs from earned media coverage. Why? Sponsored content lacks one key area: trust.
Enter earned media.
What is earned media?
Earned media is essentially any third-party-generated media coverage, publicity, content, or conversation around your brand (that’s not paid for). Think of earned media as the digital form of ‘word-of-mouth’ marketing, except the conversation comes from significant industry thought leaders and authoritative lenses, making it far more trustworthy than traditional advertising or paid content. Naturally, this can have a considerable impact on your marketing efforts and increase consumer brand recognition.
This type of media coverage refers to the exposure, validation, or recognition a brand receives from an impartial third party. Traditionally, earned media existed in the shape of news outlets or interviews. However, it can come in many forms in today’s landscape, such as thoughtfully crafted press releases, expert commentary, bylined articles, reviews, and media shares.
The catch? Achieving valuable earned media coverage doesn’t happen overnight.
Building brand trust is a marathon, not a sprint. Although you can do short-term PR campaigns based on seasonality or product launches, the most valuable ROI-driven PR comes from consistency.
The value of earned media
Inarguably, earned media creates the highest trust between your brand and your ideal audience. It’s sincere, credible, and authoritative. How? Ultimately, earned media relies heavily on successful narratives to third parties. To do this, businesses must establish credibility, trust, and working relationships with journalists, bloggers, and other third parties – and PR firms make that introduction much easier. However, journalists will need to see brands “do as they say” before they trust the brand enough to include them in a story or write a story about the brand. Needless to say, this doesn’t happen overnight and, despite best efforts, can yield little results without professional guidance and support. Still, this limitation isn’t enough reason to remove the value of earned media from your communications plan.
Although ‘earned media’ requires more work (more consistently) – it doesn’t have to be your job.
Earning the victory with Avaans media
At Avaans Media, we understand that in a competitive environment, not all businesses have the time and resources to commit to a long-term PR engagement.
That’s why we’ve created PR sprints that boost our clients towards earned media victory.
Think fast-moving tactics and fast results.
Our sought-after PR sprints are specifically designed for businesses in the consumer product space, including CPG and consumer tech, that want us to introduce their products to our deep well of media contacts for earned media opportunities.
Get instant visibility and credibility and start introducing your products to the press with our short-term product PR program.