Understanding and Applying Earned Media

By OctaneGo, December 8, 2011 | Tips & Resources

Unlike the alternate media types .i.e. paid media and owned media—earned media is the most challenging for the marketers. That is so because this type of media cannot be bought or acquired – it has to be attained. Earned media has the potential to go “viral”, and at the same time, the output is uncertain & unlimited and not directly linked with the input.

We thought a little orientation on the power of Earned media would do wonders!


Earned media (or free media) refers to favorable publicity gained through promotional efforts or editorial influence, other than advertising. Earned media is about engaging with consumers on “their” terms and gaining trust based on genuine understanding. It is an influence that is earned; it covers word-of-mouth advertising, whether digital or physical. Earned media is not a new brick in the wall. Even a hundred years ago, if someone got covered on the front page of a newspaper everyone would be talking about and recall them. This is a reputation that they “earned” by being on that media. And it’s very likely that they didn’t have to pay for it.

Why care about earned media?

Marketing costs are finite and are shrinking due to economic conditions. Media budgets are declining whereas social media has turned out to be a better way to leverage publicity and retain customers. This change has led Marketing shift from Earned Media to Paid Media. Because via paid or owned media you have a defined scope of publicity, limited exposure & hence limited ROI. However, with social media networks, recommendations and word-of-mouth publicity are becoming the dominant channels of communication which has an unlimited exposure, publicity beyond the boundaries & unbelievable ROI comparatively at NO COST. Earned media is a conversation channel that never stops once set in motion. This means its returns are far more long-lasting. Plus, consumers don’t trust advertising, but they do trust peer recommendation!

Does “earned media” always stand positive?

Everything has a potential to go viral on earned media – both the good and the bad. There are examples where companies tried to get away with ignoring customers—the ultra-popular and hilarious YouTube video “United Breaks Guitars” comes to mind—and ended up being very sorry about it. On the contrary, the most talked about video “Kolaveri” could be set as a benchmark for leveraging earned media beyond imagination. Hence, earned media has the power of making or breaking a business within a blink.

How to make Earned Media work for you?

In theory earned media is free and self-perpetuating, but in reality that’s not true. Some effort always goes into making something good and visible on earned media – be it a lone singer’s time to produce a wonderful music video, or a multinational company’s money to produce a very catchy advertisement.

The best way to crack the earned media, therefore, is to take help from online marketing. This is where you can get the initial push and visibility, and if what you are offering is really good, it will get talked about over and over, and over!

The best tools for doing this are social media marketing and email marketing. Whereas the former has a potential to spread instantly, email marketing has a lot better recall value and is also good for building long-term reputation very cost-effectively.

Whatever you do, be warned that earned media has a mind of its own.

But how to . . .

If you need help with email marketing, we are more than happy to meet you and discuss how we can help you overcome challenges. Write to us or visit us at octanego.com

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