Earned media is the kind you, well, earn. You don’t build it or buy it; it comes about when you do something worth sharing. That sharing might come in the form of a feature in your local paper or it just might as likely come when your friends and fans tell their friends and fans about your awesomeness.
The term earned media has come into vogue in the social media era, but many long time PR practitioners have used the term for years to describe things like media coverage that is earned by having a good story to tell.
Today it also encompasses social sharing, guest contributions, links, likes and mentions.
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Either way, earned media must be an essential leg of your lead generation efforts today.
There is no one magic way to generate leads. Granted, for some businesses there are more effective ways, but on the whole, long-term effective lead generation comes down to a combination of paid media, owned media and a systematic approach to the act of earning media – the lead generation trio as I like to call it.
And the most underrated of these is earned media.
Now, understand that I believe every business must learn how to blend all three types of media including paid elements such as advertising, owned elements such as eBooks and video tutorials and earned elements, such as guest content opportunities, interviews and magazine features, but the real gold in terms of credibility and trust comes from earned media.
Each member of the lead generation trio has pros and cons, but employed as a unit they have the power to help you create the kind of marketing momentum that builds long-term success.
In my experience far too many businesses lean towards owned and paid media as their primary sources and tend to treat earned media as an afterthought or value add.
Advantages of earned media
The two biggest advantages of earned media are credibility and cost. When a friend tells a friend that you provide incredible service you may gain instant trust. When your ad says trust us, there can be instant skepticism.
The other advantage to earned media is that it can be extremely cost effective. Notice I didn’t say free, there is always a time and opportunity cost involved in generating earned media, even if it’s simply preparing your thoughts for a thirty minute interview.
Disadvantages of earned media
One of the biggest holdups in embracing earned media, particularly in the social era, is control – or loss of it. Once a piece of earned media goes live it can turn into a user-generated nightmare that can’t be put back in the can.
These instances generally occur, not because of the vehicle, but because the organization behind the story lacked trust in the market.
The other aspect of earned media that is often cited as a drawback is measurability. Even though the tools are now readily available, it may be harder to analyze the real impact of earned media in terms of sales or leads.
When properly combined with owned and paid media the advantages of earned media far outweigh any potential disadvantages.
I’ve long used a definition of marketing that is: Marketing is getting someone who has a need to know, like and trust you. In that regard earned media has no peer.
John Jantsch is a marketing consultant, speaker and author of Duct Tape Marketing, Duct Tape Selling, The Commitment Engine and The Referral Engine and the founder of the Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network.