Paid Versus Earned Media: No Competition, Marketers Need Both

For many years I have heard the phrase “free media coverage.” While I’m all about getting coverage for clients, nothing in business is free. There are two ways to get your name in front of your audience – you earn it or you buy it.

Smart marketers do both.

Earned media is any form of coverage or content about your company generated by a third party through their own volition. That includes broadcast news reports or features, blog posts, magazine articles, Web news stories and bylined online or print articles, to name a few.

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Everyone wants earned media but few really understand what it takes to get it. Earned media involves pitching the right people, creating and presenting your story in many different and compelling ways. Even still, coverage is not guaranteed on any given day. If it is so hard, why do it? Because it is so tough to get, it carries a lot of weight with prospective customers and gives your company, product or service credibility. And often, credibility is a fast route to a sale.

Many think that the directive “All you have to do…” is followed by simple things like: create a Facebook page; create a viral video; or issue a press release. While these are certainly good tactical ideas, they are not a guarantee for earning media coverage. Creating a video that goes viral is no simple task. Now, I will admit that if you capture a cat, a puppy or a baby doing something particularly funny and post it to YouTube, it may go viral. However, creating an engaging and relevant video to support the marketing efforts of any company is a tall order. The same is true of your social media efforts. Posting what you want people to know may not inspire them to comment, repost or share your content.  It takes creative and strategic thinking, commitment, perseverance and investment. It takes time, skill and money to earn media coverage.

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Since earned media is not guaranteed to be there on your time schedule, it pays to also have a paid media program. Paid media guarantees delivery of a message to your audience when and where you want it. Today, the options for paid media are expansive including many paid social options with sophisticated targeting and delivery methods. It can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. To be successful you need carefully and creatively planned media programs that are meticulously tracked and optimized for the best ROI.

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Don’t make the mistake of going down what you may think is the “free media” coverage route.  You may just get left with what you paid for. Earned and paid media both require an investment. A well-crafted and tactical approach including both will deliver the most value for your efforts.

Previously published on The M/C/C Minute at www.mccom.com/blog.

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