A Guide to Earned Media: Growing Your Reach While Spending Less

Advertising your business is an important part of capturing new leads and staying top-of-mind for existing customers. However, most advertising requires a constant influx of money to continue to increase reach. In crowded markets, paying for advertising — whether online or through traditional methods — can become costly as you attempt to outpace your competition.

This is where earned media can become a powerful tool. For small businesses that understand and leverage earned media, there is an immense amount of reach to be gained. This becomes particularly true when your competition isn’t currently enacting a strategy around earned media.

In this guide, we’ll cover the basics of earned media and provide tips about how to use earned media to grow your reach while spending less.

What Is Earned Media?

Earned media is any content or material that showcases your business that you did not pay for or create yourself. Also called earned content, this type of media is published and distributed by a third party. Simply put, you can think of earned media as publicity about your business, products, services, or brand-related topics.

The key difference between earned media and an advertisement, article, or segment you pay for is that you never exchange money or services for publicity. This free media is attention that your business earns through other methods. To understand earned media better, let’s take a look at common examples of earned media today.

Examples of Earned Media

  • Newspaper Article: One of the earliest forms of earned media is a newspaper article mention. Often, newspapers will feature a local business because of something noteworthy that has taken place, such as moving locations, opening a new storefront, or contributing to the local community. Regardless of the reason, a newspaper article mention is only considered earned media if the outlet decides to feature you on their own. It does not include paid-for newspaper placements.
  • TV or Radio News Segment: Another traditional form of earned media is being featured in a TV or radio news segment. There are numerous reasons why your brand might be included in a news segment, but in order for the publicity to constitute as earned media, it cannot be a paid-for advertisement. Instead, a news source must decide independently to talk about your business on the airwaves. This might include a simple mention of your business as part of a larger piece or a full feature segment. Often, a news segment will even include an interview with your owner or staff.
  • Online Article/Blog: With the rise of online media consumption, a new form of earned media has risen. Having your company, brand, product, or service mentioned organically in an online article or blog — written by someone other than your business — is a modern form of earned media. This might take place when a local author is writing a listicle, mentioning businesses in the area by name. It might include a full feature segment by an online blogger. Similar to the above, online articles and blogs are only considered earned media if someone else authored the content and you did not pay in any way for the placement.
  • Influencer Mention: Similar to celebrity endorsements of old, today, online influencers are sharing their own personal favorite products and services with their followers. If an influencer mentions your company or brand organically, this is another modern form of earned media. With the incredible influence that these online content curators possess, an influencer mention can be a highly lucrative form of earned media.
  • Customer Reviews: What was once “word of mouth” has quickly turned into online customer reviews. When a customer loves your service or product and leaves a positive review online, you have earned that review without paying for the mention — another digital version of earned media. Online reviews play a huge role in the decision-making process of customers, which makes this a valuable long-term earned media.

The Benefits of Earned Media

There are numerous benefits to earned media. For starters, earned media doesn’t require you to spend a single dime of your marketing budget. Instead, through an organic process, you receive publicity. Earned media can help you increase your reach dramatically, even when you are working with a limited marketing budget.

Additionally, earned media is extremely valuable in influencing customer opinions. When a consumer sees a paid-for advertisement, they understand that you spent money to tell them something about your brand. There is a sense of bias in advertising.
Conversely, earned media gives off the impression that your business is worth being featured. Earned media comes across as an organic portrayal of the best of the best.

For example, if a customer sees an ad you paid for that claims your auto repair shop is the best in town, they will take that information with a grain of salt. However, if their favorite car enthusiast on YouTube raves about your shop, talking about how you are the best local mechanic in town, they will most likely be strongly influenced by that opinion.

How to Grow Your Reach With Earned Media

Earned media can be a valuable tool for outpacing your local competitors. When you earn enough media attention — whether through social media influencers or local TV stations — you can take center stage for the product or service you sell. Check out these top methods for growing your earned media with only a small amount of investment on your part.

Create Notable Content

When you offer content that is helpful and informational, you can quickly gain the attention of everyone, from online bloggers to newspaper reporters. The goal is to publish content that showcases your industry leadership.

For example, if you own an HVAC business and you know a huge winter storm is about to hit your local area, you could publish a blog, video, and social media post explaining important tips for homeowners to take to protect their homes against the upcoming freeze. If your content is original, insightful, and helpful, a local media outlet might be interested in picking it up. They might want to help their own reader or viewer base by sharing your tips. By allowing them to do so, you can gain a quick mention.

You can even use this content to pitch your ideas to local writers and reporters. Remember, to be considered earned media, you cannot pay for the placement. Rather you can use your industry insights to offer help to those in your community who are responsible for dissenting information to the public.

Publish Press Releases

Reporters are continually looking for new stories to share. One way in which they find noteworthy information about the local community is through press releases. Publishing a press release does cost money; however, if a media outlet decides to pick up the story and feature your business in an article, this is considered earned media.

The goal is to publish a press release that garners the attention of local news outlets. In order to do so, you’ll want to ensure that you create a high-quality press release that answers the five W’s:

  • Who
  • What
  • Where
  • When
  • Why

When writing a press release, a popular method for creating an engaging piece is to use what is called an inverted pyramid method.

An inverted pyramid front-loads the press release with the most important facts. This is done in order to gain the attention of journalists who are quickly scanning dozens of press releases at once. From here, you’ll need to support your press release with more details, company quotes, and interesting facts.

Before writing a press release, make sure you pick a topic that is newsworthy. Ideas for press releases for local businesses include the grand opening of a new location or hosting an event that benefits a local charity. The goal is to provide local news outlets with easy, fast access to something that would be noteworthy to the local community.

Interact With Followers

Social media influencers are playing an increasingly important role in earned media. Followers of influencers often place great weight on the recommendations these influencers make — particularly when the influencer is not being paid for the mention. Due to the regulations around social media and online video platforms — such as YouTube — influencers have to disclose sponsorships and promotions. Therefore, if an influencer simply raves about your business on their own, followers will recognize the difference.

To gain organic mentions by influencers, make sure you take the time to interact with your followers online. If someone does mention your brand in a positive light, take a moment to thank them and provide them with a shout-out. Over time, you can build the number of organic mentions you receive online.

Focus on Customer Service

Along with influencer mentions, customer reviews are critical to the success of your business. People spend a large amount of time researching companies online prior to making a purchasing decision. A big part of this effort is spent analyzing a company’s online reviews.

The best way to earn positive reviews is to focus on providing outstanding customer service. In fact, all earned media is easier to achieve when your business is doing an incredible job of providing superior services or products. Make sure you take time to review what your team is doing well and where you could improve.

Talk to J&L Marketing About Increasing Earned Media

If you are interested in learning more about how earned media might be able to help you increase your reach without increasing your marketing spend, reach out to our team at J&L. We will be happy to work with you to determine the best tactics you can take for landing earned media mentions. Whether it is being featured in a local news article or gaining traction with online influencers, we can work with you to put together a strategy around earned media in your local market.

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