The Power of Earned Media

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The following blog is a collaboration between me and my editor.

There are three general types of media today. There is media that a company can control, namely Owned Media, where a company fully controls its contents and the type of message that it wishes to spread to its customers. Simple examples of a company’s owned media can be an official website or an official Twitter account. There is also Paid Media, where a company pays a third party to display its messages or products to for its customers to see. This is the type of media that customers (You!) are exposed to every day in the form of advertisements and sponsorships. And then there is Earned Media, where the media coverage that your company wishes to gain needs to be earned from your customers.

If we define the three types of media as such, your first thought would be that earned media seems to be the toughest to gain and therefore unnecessary, especially if your company has a strong brand. But consider this: Would you trust an advertisement from the biggest, most successful, richest, and most popular company in the industry? Or would you trust the words of your family and friends more?

But wait, what is earned media?

Earned media are the reviews that you have read in someone’s blog, the comments on a company’s Facebook page, the recommendations that your friend tells you over the phone. It is out of your company’s control, but it definitely is already happening in your daily lives and it is something a company HAS to be a part of, whether or not your company plans for it. Earned media is spread by your customers, and the messages that are broadcasted by them can be either negative or positive.

The impact of a message, it seems, would hit you harder if it was delivered by a person that you really trust.
Eventhough earned media requires minimal cost and is probably the cheapest to maintain, earned media is one of the most powerful and the most influential type of media there is today! Your company does not have to pay tens and thousands of dollars for an adspace, but compared to the hundreds of advertisements you see every day, a simple recommendation from your friend about a product that he really loves is much more powerful.

Why is earned media powerful?

Simple, because today’s generations are numb towards paid and owned media since we are exposed to it every day, and that makes it harder for them to remain unique. Besides the importance of trust, we are more sensitive towards simplicity and honesty, and earned media covers all of these crucial factors in making you believe in a product or a service.

Example of an effective earned media campaign can be seen through KLM’s (yes, we love them!) ‘Tile Yourself’ campaign, where users are encouraged to upload photos of themselves and KLM would actually print your photos on their planes! The idea is so simple. Your photo, their plane. The shared experience? The interaction? The fun? The simple quirkiness yet at the same time the absolute relevance to what KLM is all about?

When do we use earned media?

Before engaging in campaigns to attain positive earned media, Your company needs to have a place to resolve the negative issues that might come with the backlash of that campaign, that is to say your company needs to already have a form of owned media where you can clarify to your customers and to ensure that negative reviews or complaints are dealt with properly. If owned media and paid media is your fortress, your base, and your headquarters online, then earned media is the weapon in your arsenal.

Your thoughts?

  • Ianemv

    Nice inputs :) In real world, this is the same as word of mouth which is not as viral as what the Internet can offer.

    With earned media particularly the negative being spread, the company who wants to “earn” consumer trust will work harder to correct their mistakes. :)

  • Steve Jones

    Great points. Earned media is a true reflection of customer passion and loyalty.
    A big problem is when brands assume they can simply ask for that level of loyalty, without engaging the customer enough to actually earn it.

  • Eric Wittlake

    Great post, and I would go even further (and my business is paid media).

    What’s important is not what you say about yourself, it’s what others say about you. What others say reflects who you really are and the real experiences they have with your company or product.

    All it takes is a corporate bank account and a copywriter to say something about yourself, on your owned site or in paid media. Today, with so many independent (at least in theory!) voices available, why would anyone listen to such a clearly biased one instead?

  • Leo Widrich

    Aaron, another fantastic post. I never thought about breaking the things up in these 3 categories, but what you are saying makes a lot of sense.

    You are very right, the honesty and simplicity of earned media can nowhere near be compared to owned media and paid media.

    Oh and if you don’t mind, I think another factor comes into play too. Working on earned media is a lot more fun! :)

    Cheers and Buffered for sure! (Amazing how well the Buffer Button is doing on your blog man – you are getting nearly more Buffers then the Buffer-Blog! :)

  • Aaron

    Hello Leo,

    Thank you for dropping by, these three have been a while, just that we all been talking about social media, its actually part of earned media. Brands like Norton are using brand advocates and earned media to help improve their brand, i think because of earned media they made like $20 million and increase their amazing rating from 2 stars to 4 stars.

    Will cover this more of course in the future

    What? i am getting more buffers? lol

  • Aaron

    Indeed, i agree with that, that is why earned media is so powerful today. Of course with owned media and own properties it helps to keep people in. Look at HBO and Mashable, they launched their own social properties like Mashable Follow and HBO connect.

    Of course with people using it and backing it up, it helps to build an amazing community

  • Aaron

    Agreed, I’ve seen brands thinking its can be “bought” or get easily. Then after trying they tend to fail

  • Aaron

    Yeah, companies are trying hard to get people to help, Norton did when they got brand advocated to help them out too, it helped them to increase their business and help to restore their reputation

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  • Andy Medlam

    Great post on Earned Media… All companies should be pushing for positive earned media in the forms of collecting reviews that will help them drive & increase their ROI.. This is something we do for our clients

    Thanks for your time

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