Muckrake asked some important questions, and it is pretty apparent we are in a disruptive stage of media coverage, journalism and news dissemination in general.  Muckrake said, “ Although it has many connotative definitions, PRSA defines PR as a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” 

We thought it was important to relay this discussion of earned media, as the disruption of distributed media continues. All of the information below is a part of the discussion pieced together from Muckrake’s articles and contributions.  This is intended as a reference guide as we emerge from the disruption.

According to Gini Dietrich, “Earned media is what you know as either publicity or media relations. It’s getting your name in print. Having a newspaper or trade publication write about you. Appearing on the noon news to talk about your product. It’s what the PR industry is typically known for because it’s one of the few tangible things we do.” 

Depending on the role, PR pros are mostly focused on earned media. They are still often charged with the responsibility of managing a brand’s public reputation by earning a third-party endorsement from a professional journalist. But just because a public relations professional is using earned media to achieve their strategic goals, does that make them one in the same?

Earned media is just one arm of a broader communication strategy that spans the four major media types: paid media earned media, shared media and owned media. 

Earned media is the typical space where most PR pros have lived in the past, although the importance of understanding and adopting other channels has continued to become more and more important to achieving success in the field. 

Over the last few decades, the way the public receives and shares information has changed and earned media has expanded beyond the traditional scope of television, newspapers and magazine articles.

PR pros must adapt their roles to utilize other channels that might best suit their goals, channels that exist outside of the earned space. 

This might include: 

  • Publishing sponsored content in a popular blog or magazine (paid)
  • Using paid platforms to promote earned media placements or targeting advertisements to earned media audiences
  • Curating and sharing content from real customers on Instagram (shared)
  • Publishing a story directly on your brand’s or client’s website (owned)

In the past, the public might have discovered a new product, service or breaking trend via a broadcast program or news article in a prominent publication. Today, people have access to an infinite amount of information at the tips of their fingers, thanks to tools like smartphones and social networking sites. 

With the blurring of the lines of communication, the scope of earned media has also shifted, taking away some of the control public relations professionals once had.The public itself has more control than ever over shaping a brand’s reputation through earned media, such as: 

As the paid, earned, shared and owned media channels intertwine, the distinction between them is becoming less and less important to consumers. According to research from USC Annenberg, 62% of communications experts predict future consumers won’t be able to distinguish between a piece of information written by a reporter, paid for by a brand, or shared by an influencer

On top of that, another 55% believe they won’t care where this information is coming from.

With advances in technology and shifts in communication patterns, the set of tools in a PR pro’s toolbox continues to expand beyond the traditional, allowing them to tap into new media types that complement their earned media efforts.