3 min read

Earned Media v. Advertising

Earned Media v. Advertising

Whether you earn it or pay for it, publicity is rarely free. The nature of the investment that you make may impact how customers view you. Knowing what you should pay, what you’re paying for and how it could affect your brand is important. Let’s talk about the fundamental differences between earned media and paid ads and the decisions you can make as you promote your business.

The best way to succeed with paid ads is to have killer copy. To tap our deck of craze-mazing copywriters, connect with Hire a Writer.

Paid Ads

Paid ads online are most commonly cost-per-click (CPC). These are ads on Google, Bing or social platforms like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. CPC ads may also be retargeting ads, where you pay to deliver an ad to a customer who has visited your website. You can also pay for ads on television, radio and in print publications… you get the idea. If the ad costs you something, it’s considered a paid ad. 

There are a few metrics by which you need to measure the effectiveness of a paid ad. This may be easier through online avenues.

For example, CPC ads have an inherent tracking mechanism. You understand, when you run these ads, how much it costs each time a customer clicks the ad. That’s your CPC number. 

Print ads are notoriously harder to track. You can incentivize this feedback cycle by attaching a “bring this in for a 20% discount” language on a direct mail, for example. This would be one of the only ways you know whether the paid ad “worked.” These numbers can be hard to pin down, making it hard to truly know whether the ad paid off.

‍Related: Five Tips for Writing Short-Form Ad Copy

Earned Media

In the world of public relations, we are all about earned media. Public relations exposure is, in essence, earned media. In other words, your brand strength is compelling enough to be independently verified by third parties. The experience of seeing your business showcased on a media outlet creates a different customer reaction. 

It’s similar to the difference between a testimonial that’s written on a company website and one written on the BBB page. A customer knows that it hasn’t been filtered or edited. It’s the honest truth. Earned media exposure can carry this level of value.

Numerous studies support this:

“This multiplier or implied third-party endorsement effect is considered  advantageous because information conveyed through the media filter is thought to be perceived by consumers as more fact-based and credible and less-biased than information provided in a paid advertisement or other information that is prepared, funded and distributed by a self-interested party.”

Howes and Sallot Does Media Coverage Matter Public Relations Journal, Vol. 8, No. 4 (Winter 2014)

“Value enhancements also are often attributed to an audience’s perceptions of greater

credibility because gatekeeper (reporter or editor) of the information provider (the news

media) is not directly beholden to the originating source.”

Guth & Marsh, 2007

“Familiarity with a media source may also influence the public’s perceptions of credibility,

with better-known media being perceived as more believable.”

Howes and Sallot Does Media Coverage Matter Public Relations Journal, Vol. 8, No. 4 (Winter 2014)

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Different Kinds of Earned Media

At heart, earned media is a public relations exercise. This is because PR professionals work to extend your network and visibility by reaching out and making connections. These connections come with an ask: will you feature? Will you promote? Will you endorse? This public endorsement on various platforms is earned media. You earn it by being a solid company. You get it by partnering with a PR professional. 

Here are some different kinds of earned media with a track record of credibility and authority:

  • News networks
  • Printed magazines and papers
  • Online newspapers and magazines
  • Radio networks
  • Podcasts with a large audience
  • Independent bloggers

There are also a few platforms that leverage a mix of paid and earned ad strategies. These include native advertisements and influencer marketing.

The Price of Credibility

So, if there is evidence that third-party coverage is more credible than paid ads, how do you get it? The value add is there. But what is the process?

The challenge to most brands when it comes to recognizing and achieving third-party endorsement is time. Your role is to create and perpetuate a consistent and authentic brand story. Internal and external messaging should match. If you want to be portrayed as trustworthy and excellent, be those things. If you are, you should have no trouble finding a platform. But you may need a partnership to get you there.

The Role of Content in Your Advertising Strategy

This is where a public relations professional comes in. Earned media isn’t about dumping a few grand into a Facebook ad to increase follow count. This is a longer and more in-depth exercise. But it comes with a measurably higher ROI, as you have seen. 

We take what is best about your brand and expand your network of promoters. If you want to learn more, reach out.

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