PR: Gain Trust with Earned Media

October 30, 2017

Interested in earning more of your media? Here are some earned media basics and a simple strategy for getting started.

Earned media is any type of brand mention or promotion you don’t pay for. It’s different from owned media (your blog, social media platforms, website, etc.) and the opposite of paid media (paid ads, digital banners, TV spots, etc.).

You can earn media in a lot of ways, across many different platforms. Social media shares and comments, high-ranking search results, online reviews, mentions in news or industry trade publications and so on.

And it’s powerful:

Essentially, earned media is the solution to advertising’s growing trust issue. It dodges ad blockers and helps hush the defense mechanism people feel when they know they’re being marketed to. But it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution so let’s take a moment to discuss some challenges with earned media.

Less Control

Some would say you have close to no control with earned media. After all, you can’t force someone to talk about you. However, different approaches to earned media come with more control—it all comes down to focusing those efforts. More on that in a moment.

Risk to Reputation

Again, you can’t force someone to talk about you or say nice things when they do. Negative press and bad reviews are a challenge. Unfortunately, thanks to the Internet, this risk is becoming more difficult to mitigate whether you pursue an earned media strategy or not.


With paid and owned media plans, you can see the cost upfront. Earned media doesn’t cost anything, but the time it takes to maintain quality relationships with your customers and the media outlets they value does. Paying a firm to cultivate opportunities is no guarantee of placement (although years of experience can bring clients some peace of mind).

So, where is a good place to start?

Set a Simple Objective

Be the expert in the industry publications. This is a clear-cut objective. It’s not asking for everything at once, not targeting your rankings, social media shares or Internet chatter about you. It’s straightforward. Write relevant, timely content and get it published in the pubs that matter to your customers.


In agriculture, we’ve got a lot of industry publications. And, it’s important to note, farmers still read them (in print and digital formats). Identify the set of publications that matter to your audience (dairy, beef, manufacturing, etc.). If you look closely, you’ll notice a lot of them, not all of them, accept third party editorial pieces.

Here’s an example:

A dairy nutritionist for a feed company is frequently published in one of the largest dairy publications. His articles never discuss their specific feed product (publications won’t allow it), but they are filled with helpful information regarding dairy nutrition. Readers see the feed company name in the byline and that’s the connection. A positive association between the brand and helpful information, featured on a neutral third party platform. This strategy positions the company as a true leader in the field, while helping an editor out with some great content.


This is where some outside help comes in handy. You have two to-do lists to accomplish earning media in industry pubs—securing opportunities and (often) content creation.

An effective process boils down to this: brainstorm a topic, pitch that topic to an editor, topic is accepted, write full article, submit to editor for review and approval.

Topic creation is first. Who are the experts in your company, and what insights can they turn into articles to offer to pubs? Is your company prepared to create this content, or do you need help producing it?

Second (and often in tandem with topic creation) is identifying and securing those earned opportunities, which can be tricky and time consuming. It involves pulling editorial calendars, identifying relevant issues, drafting effective pitches and developing relationships with editors. Then, once a topic is accepted by a pub, you must work with the editor to write the article, make any requested edits, provide bios and graphics and be sure to make all deadlines.

Pros of focusing on this type of earned media include:

  • Control—If your company is writing the article, you have control over what the article says.
  • Efficiency—If you work with an agency that has established relationships with editors, you have a better chance of each pitch being picked up (more so than sending out generic batches of press releases).
  • Persuasion—you get to inform the industry on what you know to be true.

As noted above, not all publications accept third-party articles. In those cases, often they will write an article using your expert as a source. Sometimes though, they just aren’t interested, and it’s important to respect the editorial process in those situations and continue to build long-lasting relationships.

Have questions about earned media or want to learn more? Ask us about our media relations services! Paulsen is happy to help with your next PR effort! Email us at!