Earned Media: Engagement For The Best Price
What exactly is earned media? I’m glad you asked. But first, let’s define paid media (sorry, it’s the best that Wikipedia had to offer). Paid media is just that. Exposure that you pay for whether it be television, print, radio, outdoor or online. If you paid someone to put your message there, it’s paid media. Don’t get me wrong, paid media is absolutely necessary and crucial to an integrated marketing mix. And, with the controls available today, you can reach a very targeted audience exactly where you want them for smaller investments than ever before. But, nevertheless, it’s still paid.
Earned media is the result of coverage, comments and conversation produced by press releases, chat threads, Facebook posts, Twitter tweets, blogging, commenting, reviewing, rating, social bookmarking like Digging, StumblingUponing (I made that verb up so don’t hate), Deliciousing (see previous parenthetical note), and video posting (I still love “Will It Blend?” and applaud Blendtec for doing it the right way) among other user-generated and brand-owner content development. Earned media is not completely free. You will most likely pay an agency like ours or an employee of your company to create, craft, post and manage earned media. If you are bootstrapping and doing it yourself, it still costs in terms of time and effort that could have been spent elsewhere. But let’s face it, you’d be paying to create the ads or media for your paid media on top of the actual media costs anyway. So, earned media still costs less.
Even better than costing less, earned media is more valid, engaging and connecting than paid media in a myriad of ways. It can come via a trusted third party – a friend, a media source, a blogger or a community you respect. It, by its very nature, sparks a dialogue that can open the doors for deeper connection. And, it engenders credibility (when done right, mind you) by offering information and conversation versus a come-on or enticement.
Word-of-mouth can be sparked by great paid media, but it’s the following earned media that makes it viral. Keep that in mind when you are planning and the word “viral” pops up.