What is Earned Media? A How-To Guide


the ultimate how-to guide to earned media

You probably know that a good digital marketing strategy should include paid, owned, and earned media if it’s going to be really effective. But what do those terms really mean? And how can you make the most of each one?

In this piece, we’re going to focus on that final one—earned media—and how our earned media guide will revamp your brand’s approach to attracting consumers. But before we dive in, let’s define each term and explain how those three elements work together.

Paid, owned, and earned media: What do they mean?

Paid media is fairly straightforward, right? It means media (or advertising) that you pay for—social ads, print advertising, paid partnerships, PPC campaigns, etc.

Owned media consists of the channels your brand controls, like your brand’s social profiles, website, blog, etc.

The thing with both paid and owned media is that your brand is the one calling the shots. You decide how much to spend on your paid ads, for example, and you decide how to target them. You create blog posts and share them across your social channels, and you decide what information to share on your website.

With earned media, however, your brand isn’t in charge. So how do you get earned media? Well, it’s just that: earned. It’s what third parties, like media outlets, influencers, and your fans, say about your brand—not because they’re paid to, but because they are so inspired or interested by it that they want to.

Now, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that if your brand offers a quality product or service and regularly engages with fans and other brands online, earned media will simply appear. That’s possible—but unlikely. Earning that coverage takes work and, sometimes, a lot more work than your paid and owned coverage.

But here’s the good news: There are a lot of marketing tactics you can use to your advantage to boost your brand and make the most of whatever earned media you attract.

Here’s our complete How-to Guide for Earned Media.

But first: why does earned media matter?

As we all know, social media changed everything when it came to advertising. Instead of picture-perfect models in idyllic settings, consumers started wanting to see real people who really used the products and services brands are selling.

This is one of the hallmarks of the connected consumer. While they’re extremely idealistic about the brands they engage (they expect not only high-quality products and services but also high levels of authenticity), they’re also highly discriminating. They can spot an advertising plug from a mile away—and chances are, they’ll scroll right on past it.

While paid and owned media are still pivotal pieces of your marketing strategy, earned media is essential because it doesn’t come from your brand—and connected consumers are therefore more likely to trust it.

There’s an SEO value to earned media, too. Since Google rewards fresh content, earned media from third parties—in other words, fresh content about your brand in the form of articles, tweets, reviews, etc.—can boost your “freshness” score and push your brand up higher in search rankings.

Related post: 50 B2B SEO Strategies

12 Earned Media Tactics to Secure Amazing Brand Coverage

1. Creating a solid earned media strategy

Like any marketing effort, planning out a defined strategy will help you achieve your goals in a much more efficient and measurable manner.

Here’s what to do:

  • Define your goals. Are you trying to generate more brand awareness in general? Push a particular product or service? Reach a new target demographic?
  • Figure out who you’re targeting. If your goal is to reach a new demographic, then this step is primarily done. However, if your goal is different, you’ll need to figure out who you want to reach.
  • Research the content that is performing the best with your target audience. You want to really spend some time learning what kind of b2b content your audience is consuming. Tools like BuzzSumo can help with this, although some simple Google searching can work as well.
  • Research the outlets and influencers you want to connect with. Remember, if you’re paying someone to write about your brand, it’s not earned media. Instead, you want to find publications, review sites, influencers, and fans who would likely partner with you because they actually like your brand—perhaps they align with your brand values or need your company’s expertise.
  • Reach out to those outlets and influencers with pitches. When you know what outlets and influencers you want to target, you can craft pitches designed specifically for them. Specificity is essential—you don’t want to pitch a science and tech magazine a profile story on your CEO.
  • Share your earned media on your own social channels. Once you’ve achieved that earned media coverage, make sure you capitalize on it by sharing it across your social platforms with employees, investors, and others who have a stake in your business.

Related post: Why Social Media Marketing Matters for B2B

2. Generate more earned media

There are several ways you can start generating more earned media. Identify brand ambassadors on your social channels and up your engagement with them. Brand ambassadors are simply fans who genuinely love your brand—and who, most importantly, are vocal about that online.

Facebook fans who regularly like and share your posts with their audiences, Twitter followers who retweet you, and bloggers who’ve mentioned your products in their posts are all potential brand ambassadors.

To help cultivate these fans, make sure you engage with them regularly. Thank them for their support. Find out if they have a blog or website of their own. Do what you can to show your appreciation for them, whether that means sending them a coupon or sharing one of their posts on your brand’s social channel.

3. Get in touch with journalists

Reporters and journalists always need quotes from industry experts. Search for reporters who cover topics that your brand’s leadership can speak to, and pitch them a story idea. Another good tool is HARO, or Help a Reporter—this site connects sources with journalists who need their expertise.

Related post: Strategic Public Relations: Planning, Process, and Execution

4. Cultivate influencers

Influencer marketing requires ongoing efforts, as effective influencer campaigns have to be built around a mutually beneficial relationship with your brand.

If you’re reaching out to someone you’ve never contacted before, make sure to do your research beforehand. Figure out what kind of content they typically produce, what their followers respond to, and what topics are important to them. Then, send them a pitch that reflects that knowledge and familiarity. The easier it is for them to say yes to a partnership without having to make lots of changes, the better.

And don’t forget to cultivate your existing influencer relationships, as well. Show your appreciation for influencers you’ve partnered with in the past by actively engaging with their content and sharing it with your audience when appropriate. The best way to think when it comes to B2B influencer marketing is long-term.

5. Participate in conferences and industry trade shows

While so much marketing happens online these days, it’s important not to neglect offline opportunities to network.

Face-to-face meetings with fellow brands, as well as bloggers, journalists, and industry experts who attend conferences and trade shows, can be highly effective in securing earned media. This is especially true because so many events now encourage real-time social media coverage from attendees, creating unique hashtags for participants to use on all their posts.

It’s the perfect opportunity to earn a few social media mentions from colleagues and give a few to brands you admire.

6. Create events and experiences for your fans

Experiential marketing—or digital campaigns that are driven by an event, gathering, or experience shared by customers and a brand—is an incredibly effective way to connect with your audience and boost your earned media.

According to research by EventTrack, 65% of consumers say experiential marketing helps them have a better understanding of a product or a service. In comparison, 70% of consumers say they become regular customers after attending an experiential marketing event.

What’s more, significant branded events often earn coverage by traditional media outlets, like newspapers and magazines, and online outlets like blogs and localized websites (like Eater or Thrillist).

You can also encourage attendees to share posts and images of your event with their own social networks by creating an event-specific hashtag and making sure your social media manager retweets, likes, and shares attendee posts.

7. Getting the most mileage out of your earned media

Don’t forget that earned media is something you can reuse and repurpose throughout your owned media channels.

Create a blog post roundup of some of your recent event’s best tweets or Instagram posts. Include fan testimonials in your next webinar. Distribute influencer quotes about your product to review sites.

There are plenty of possibilities to increase your brand’s earned media.

Want to learn more about upping your earned media game? Read “How We Earned Dippin’ Dots More Coverage Than a Super Bowl Ad…Without Spending a Dime on Paid Advertising.”

8. Product reviews

Reviews about your products or services can help increase traffic to your site and improve conversions. They can even influence customer behavior. In fact, according to a recent study, consumers are 50% more likely to buy something if they read a positive review. However, there are risks associated with product reviews too. A negative review could hurt your reputation, especially if it goes viral.

A good way to avoid such problems is to make sure that your reviews are authentic and unbiased. Make sure that they are written by real people, and don’t include false information like fake names or email addresses. Also, ensure that they are posted in places where they can reach many eyes, including social networks, online forums, and blogs.

Another way to leverage reviews is to publish them yourself. You can do this either on your own website or via third-party sites like Amazon, Facebook, Yelp, and TripAdvisor.

9. Word-of-mouth recommendations

Word-of-mouth is considered to be one of the most powerful forms of earned media. In fact, according to Forrester Research, “word-of-mouth referrals are still among the strongest influencers of consumer behavior.”

The reason being, there are no barriers to entry when it comes to word-of-mouth marketing. You don’t even have to ask someone to recommend you; they’ll do it anyway. And once they’ve done it, they’re likely to tell everyone else they know about it.

For starters, build trust. Consumers want to know that companies are trustworthy, so they’ll pay attention to customer feedback. If a customer says something nice about your company, make sure to respond quickly. A quick response can help establish credibility and show your customers that you care.

Next, focus on providing exceptional customer experiences. People don’t want to feel rushed or ignored; they want to know that they matter to you. Make sure your employees treat every interaction with a customer as an opportunity to provide excellent service. Be friendly, helpful, and responsive. Showing empathy goes a long way toward building relationships and creating loyal customers.

Finally, encourage referrals. You want to attract people who are already recommending your products and services to their friends and family members. Encourage them to do so by offering incentives such as discounts and coupons.

As you can see, word of mouth is a powerful tool that can boost your bottom line. But it doesn’t happen overnight. To reap the rewards of word of mouth, you must invest in your reputation and work hard to earn it.

10. Video Ads

Between YouTube channels and other streaming sites, you may already have seen your fair share of video ads. While some of them are annoying, others actually add value to the experience. You might think that the best place to put an advertisement is in front of the video itself, but that doesn’t always work. For example, when someone watches a live sports event, they usually want to see highlights and stats immediately afterwards. That makes it difficult to interrupt the action with a commercial. Instead, advertisers often choose to use the interstitials that pop up when you start playing a video. These ads are placed right in the middle of the video, making them less likely to annoy the viewer.

Even a short paid video ad won’t necessarily stop a person from clicking away. Remember, you can control where your video plays, and you can include a call to action like “click here” or “watch now” to make sure people know exactly what to do. And if you’re worried about losing potential customers, you can opt into targeting based on location, device type, browser, and demographics.

11. Conduct a survey or Research Study

Conducting a survey or research study on a topic related to your industry can provide unique insights and data that can be shared with media outlets and influencers. This can be an effective way to position your brand as an authority in your industry and generate interest from journalists and bloggers.

To maximize the impact of your survey or study, consider partnering with a research firm or expert in your industry to ensure the credibility of your data. Once you have your results, create a press release or media pitch highlighting the key findings and insights from your study. Share this with relevant journalists and bloggers to generate coverage for your brand.

12. Launch a social media contest

Launching a social media contest is a fun and interactive way to increase engagement with your audience and generate buzz around your brand. By encouraging user-generated content, you can create a sense of community around your brand and increase brand loyalty. To ensure the success of your social media contest, make sure to offer a compelling prize that is relevant to your target audience. Promote the contest across all of your social media channels and consider partnering with influencers to help spread the word.

Additionally, make sure to set clear rules and guidelines to ensure the contest is fair and transparent. When the contest is over, showcase the winners and their entries on your social media channels to generate more buzz and engagement.

13. Host Fireside Chats on LinkedIn

Hosting fireside chats on LinkedIn helps individuals establish thought leadership within an industry. Start by choosing relevant and compelling topics that align with the company’s expertise, industry trends, or challenges. By addressing these topics, B2Bs can capture the interest and engagement of their target audience more effectively.

An essential aspect of successful fireside chats is inviting influential and knowledgeable guests to participate. By collaborating with industry experts, thought leaders, or other influential figures, the event gains credibility and attracts a larger audience. Their presence can enhance the value of the discussions and increase the overall reach of the event.

During the fireside chat, you must engage the audience actively. Encouraging participants to ask questions and share their insights in the comments section fosters a more dynamic and participatory atmosphere. Responding to comments and questions in real-time not only demonstrates the company’s responsiveness but also adds value to the conversation.

Once the fireside chat concludes, the content can be repurposed for further visibility and impact. B2Bs can create smaller video snippets, blog posts, or infographics from the chat’s key highlights and share them across their LinkedIn profile and other social media channels. Repurposing content extends the reach of the event and reinforces the key takeaways, maximizing its long-term impact.

14. Develop contributed content.

Developing contributed content or becoming a contributor to a publication enhance brand visibility within your industry.

Contributed content refers to articles, blog posts, or other valuable pieces of content created and shared by industry experts or representatives from a specific company. By providing insightful and informative content, B2B executives can position themselves as thought leaders, earning credibility and trust from their target audience.

These publications often have an established readership, and featuring content on such platforms enables B2Bs to reach potential clients, partners, and industry stakeholders who might not have been aware of them otherwise. This exposure can significantly boost brand recognition and open doors to new business opportunities.

Contributing valuable content also helps B2Bs build brand authority within their niche. As a contributor, they can showcase their expertise, knowledge, and unique insights, establishing themselves as reputable sources of information. Over time, readers will come to recognize the brand as an industry authority, positively impacting their perception and trust in the company.

Through contributed content, B2B executives can address current industry challenges, trends, and innovations. By offering solutions and insights, they can position themselves as valuable partners and problem solvers for their target audience. Consistently contributing relevant and valuable content allows B2Bs to remain top-of-mind with their audience. This consistent presence can give them a competitive edge over companies that are not actively sharing thought leadership content. Plus, collaborating with publications fosters connections that may lead to more opportunities for collaboration and further exposure for the B2B brand.

15. Partner with key analysts in your industry. 

While it may require a financial investment, the benefits of partnering with key analysts can significantly outweigh the costs. Analysts play a crucial role in shaping market perceptions and influencing buying decisions, making them influential thought leaders within their respective domains. 

The credibility and validation that come with an analyst’s endorsement can greatly impact a B2B company’s reputation. When an analyst endorses a company or its products/services, it adds credibility and validation to the brand, which can lead to increased trust and confidence among potential clients.

Additionally, analysts often have a well-established following of decision-makers, executives, and industry professionals who rely on their insights to make informed choices. Partnering with analysts provides B2Bs with access to these highly targeted audiences, enabling them to reach the right people at the right time.

Analysts are frequently sought after by media outlets for expert opinions and insights. When a B2B company partners with influential analysts, it increases the likelihood of securing media coverage and press opportunities, which further elevates the brand’s visibility and reputation.

How Much Time Earned Media Takes

Earned media is typically the product of other marketing efforts. Say someone shares your recent blog article or reposts your latest campaign poster. This is earned media, but it doesn’t happen without you designing, creating, and publishing the content first.

For example, let’s say you’re running a Facebook advertising campaign and want to measure how many people clicked on your ad. You could track the number of clicks directly on Facebook, but that won’t tell you anything about whether those clicks were actually worth something.

You’d need to look at your analytics reports to figure out what happened next. Did anyone convert into a lead? What did they do once they arrived on your site? How long did they spend there? Was there any bounce rate? These are just some of the questions you might ask yourself, and answering them will help you understand the value of the clicks.

Of course, measuring the effects of earned media can take time, anywhere from a couple of weeks to a couple of months. It depends on the type of content you’re trying to promote. If you’ve been promoting videos, for instance, you might notice traffic spikes within hours of posting, while paid ads usually take days to start showing results.

If you’re looking to measure the effectiveness of your campaigns, it helps to know exactly what you’re aiming for. Are you trying to increase brand awareness? Drive sales? Create leads? Measurement isn’t always easy, but knowing where you’re headed makes it easier to figure out what worked and what didn’t.

What is Earned Media Value?

Earned media value (EMV) is the total amount of money earned by an organization through various forms of advertising and publicity. An EMV can include any kind of marketing activity, including paid ads, free promotions, word of mouth, sponsored events, and so on.

This metric tells you how much your brand has earned by being mentioned on third-party websites or on social networks where people share your message. It includes any mentions that may drive traffic to your site as well as any direct sales resulting from those mentions. It’s important to remember that earned media value isn’t just about your own company’s branding and messaging. It also includes any mentions by others in the industry. If someone else says something good about your business online, that counts as earned media.

Not All Earned Media is Created Equal

Earned media includes press releases, articles, blog posts, social media interactions, etc. This is great because it helps you build awareness about your brand, product, or service. However, there are some things to keep in mind. For example, if someone writes something negative about your organization, don’t take it personally. You’re probably doing everything possible to make sure your reputation stays strong. And if you do happen to offend someone, apologize immediately.

Earned Media Examples

Earned media has become just as important, if not more so. Learn who’s doing it right and how you can go about achieving earned media for your brand. Here are three examples:

1. Home Depot’s giant skeleton

In 2020 promoted a new decorative Halloween item; a 12-foot-tall skeleton. The $300 skeleton sold out quickly and in the process went viral on social media. Organic search surged and the skeleton became the subject of many satirical articles and memes floating around the internet. Home Depot went on to report that Halloween 2020 was the strongest they’ve ever had, demonstrating the power of earned media and making a highly meme-able product.

2. Ahrefs and the power of podcasts

CMO of Ahrefs, Tim Soulo appeared in 20 podcasts in the year 2019. He published a post on Medium explaining that he did it as an easy way to get brand exposure. Not only is this a great method to gain earned media, but it is one that is not too time-consuming. Soulo himself said he ended up completing this goal just 4 months in. He went on to say that, “the total commitment time is roughly two hours per episode, but in exchange, you get to put yourself (your ideas, your product, your business) in front of thousands of potential customers.”

3. Hint Water and Sarah “Peachy”

As mentioned before, reaching out to influencers is a great way to generate earned media. Hint Water used this strategy to their benefit by sending over a hundred bottles of peach-flavored water to Youtuber Sarah Dietschy (they knew she liked to remind subscribers her name rhymed with “peachy.”) Hint Waters’ goal was to get her attention with this absurd amount of flavored water and it’s safe to say it worked. By reviewing the product for her viewers, soon enough Hint Water was in the hand of every Youtuber, influencer and content creator in New York and LA.

6 Earned Media Tools

With an idea of how an earned media strategy should play out, you’re ready to begin building your own. Let’s look at 6 earned media tools to help your brand accomplish its goals and successfully spread your content far and wide.

1. PR Newswire

When it comes to sharing great news, sometimes you need a little help getting the word out. That’s where PR Newswire comes in – with their help, you can easily distribute news, announcements, and events to a wealth of sources. All you need to do is sign up, and PR Newswire will take care of the rest, authorizing your account and helping you promote your press release to a larger audience. With PR Newswire, you can reach more people with your news and make sure that it’s seen by the right people.

2. Buzzstream

Buzzstream is an essential tool for any marketer looking to build links and expand their reach. With this tool, you can reach out to influencers in your niche and reach out with content they may want to share. Additionally, Buzzstream makes it easy to share content with influencers, as they can simply drag and drop the content into their Buzzstream account. The tool also allows you to organize all your outreach efforts, from list building to tracking replies.

3. Contently

Creating a portfolio with Contently is a great way to show off your writing skills to potential clients and employers. You can create a portfolio that is public or private, and you can include articles, essays, and even your own personal blog. You can also choose to include writing samples from other publications if you’d like. Contently is open to writers, authors, and journalists of all levels of experience. Creating a portfolio with Contently is a great way to get your work seen by a larger audience, and it can also lead to new opportunities.

4. Boomerang for Gmail

Boomerang for Gmail is a great add-on that allows you to schedule your emails and automated follow-ups. It’s an extremely valuable tool for any business as it keeps your inbox organized and enables you to follow up with people in a timely manner. Boomerang for Gmail is what you need if you want to increase your productivity and efficiency.

5. Cision

Cision is a media database and PR software that helps businesses identify relevant journalists, bloggers, and influencers for their outreach efforts. It also offers monitoring and analysis tools to help businesses measure the impact of their earned media coverage.

6. Meltwater

Meltwater is a media monitoring and analytics tool that helps businesses track mentions of their brand, competitors, and industry in the media and on social media. It also offers media outreach and influencer engagement tools to help businesses earn more media coverage.

Final Thoughts

Earned media is one of the most powerful tools in a marketer’s arsenal. It has the ability to reach a large audience at a fraction of the cost of paid advertising. And it’s become even more important in recent years, as more and more people have started to tune out traditional advertising.

Whether it be through a press release, product release, or with the help of an influencer, earned media is bigger than ever. It can help you reach new customers, build brand awareness and even drive sales. But getting earned media coverage is no easy task. It takes a lot of hard work and a lot of luck, but by following this guide, you too can soon enough gain more coverage than ever.

To learn more on how to leverage earned media, contact us for a helping hand!


Don’t miss!

Expert-level insights direct from our CEO’s desk.


Explore the latest in B2B PR and marketing

Let’s talk.

Our clients are smart, thoughtful, & forward-thinking.

Sound like you? Get in touch.