The Value of Earned Media

  • by Mack McKelvey
  • Apr 28, 2015

Heidi Cohen, author of the Actionable Marketing Guide recently reached out to me for input on the definition of “Earned Media”. I started my career in PR back in the mid-nineties and I’ve watched earned media evolve into something far more complex than pure media relations, which used to consist of faxing press releases and relentlessly hounding journalists with pitches via phone calls and pages (not joking—and for all the reporters out there from my early days—Seth, Stephanie, Jason, Andy, etc. I’m very sorry for the constant barrages).

The truth of the matter is that today, all earned media starts with strategic integrated marketing planning, and if it isn’t tied to measurable business objectives, it’s potentially wasted effort, time and money. At SalientMG, we like to say that “we need to wring out every nickel” of marketing spend, and this is just as true with PR as it is with any other discipline.

When you hear the concept that earned media is free, don’t fool yourself. PR is NOT free. Earned media is NOT free. It is very expensive, as it’s HARD. It all starts with a company’s stellar product, and a solid understanding of what is and is not newsworthy. Then, it takes incredible planning, content creation, relationships, timing and a bit of luck as well. If you don’t have the internal resources to commit against it (and the vast majority of small companies and start-ups do not), buying one-off, as-needed PR isn’t a strategy, it’s executing an isolated tactic, which rarely yields any measurable business returns.


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What’s even more expensive is thinking and treating PR like a one-off. “If I just get this article, then I’ll…” That makes companies desperate and reporters can smell it like chum in the water.

But don’t take my word from it. The full article, with thoughts from David Berkowitz, MRY; Stephanie Fierman, MediaCom Worldwide; Sarah Hofstetter, 360i; Rebecca Lieb, Altimeter; Jason Miller, LinkedIn; and many more, can be accessed here: Earned Media Definition: 38 Experts Weigh In

My particular thoughts from the article are republished here:

23. As the CEO of a marketing firm, with 19 years of experience in marketing, I believe earned media is the result of integrated marketing versus straight media relations.

Defining earned media as press coverage driven solely by PR efforts is a narrow view. I believe that earned media is the end result of coordinated, multi-channel efforts. But regardless of the campaign, strong earned media is preceded by disciplined product development and strategically designed go-to-market strategies.

When a full marketing plan comes together, earned media comes from all channels including press coverage and social distribution and sharing; and should be ultimately judged by the impact on leads and/or sales.”

Erin (Mack) McKelvey, SalientMG
Twitter: @MackMcKelvey



Categories:All, Media, Public Relations

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