What Is Earned Media in Marketing? Definition, Benefits, and Examples

Earned media is a game-changer in marketing, providing powerful means for brands to reach and engage with an authentic online target market. But what is earned media, and how can you get more of it for your brand? As the name suggests, this marketing strategy is earned through the brand’s intentional actions, reputation, and customer relationships, instead of paid efforts.

This marketing strategy is essential in today’s digital media outlets, with customers becoming more skeptical of conventional bombarding advertising. 

As a result, consumers are shifting to sources they deem more authentic and trustworthy. Read on to learn more about this tactic and to see earned media examples so you can create your own strategy.

Key Takeaways

  • Earned media refers to any form of publicity a brand receives through unpaid channels, such as customer reviews, media coverage, influencer marketing, and word-of-mouth.
  • It offers credibility and trustworthiness from unbiased third parties and is the most effective type of publicity a brand can get.
  • Earned media can be distinguished from paid media (advertising or promotional content requiring direct payment) and owned media (content assets and channels owned by a brand).
  • Earned media fosters trust in consumers, increases brand visibility, and is a cost-effective tactic compared to traditional media outlets.
  • Strategies to gain earned media include creating quality content, leveraging influencers, encouraging UGC, and measuring performance using metrics like reach, impressions, engagement, and conversions.
what is earned media

Earned Media Definition

Earned media refers to any exposure your brand receives through unpaid channels that aren’t your own. This can include mentions in media coverage, social media shares, influencer recommendations, or word of mouth from satisfied customers. Essentially, earned media is any way your brand gains visibility without paying for it or creating it yourself.

While earned media (free media) is the most effective publicity your brand can get, it’s the toughest media type to crack. It calls for a strategic approach, a dedication to providing value, and a commitment to investing in cultivating connections with key media outlets and influencers.

Earned Media vs. Paid Media vs. Owned Media

If you’re familiar with the digital marketing world, you’ve probably heard these terms, but what exactly is the distinction between earned, paid, and owned media? They’re all distinct types of media employed in communication and marketing strategies.

  • Earned media: Organic publicity gained through word-of-mouth, shares, mentions, or positive press coverage. Generated by external sources like customers, influencers, journalists, or social media users. Offers credibility and trustworthiness from unbiased third parties.
  • Paid media: Advertising or promotional content requiring direct financial investment. Provides control over placement, timing, and messaging. Examples: online ads, TV commercials, and sponsored social media posts.
  • Owned media: Content assets and channels owned and controlled by a brand or individual. Includes websites, blogs, social media profiles, email newsletters, press releases, or mobile apps. Offers complete control over content, messaging, and user experience.

Characteristics of Earned Media

characteristics of earned media

Earned media features various characteristics that set it apart from other forms of media, such as sponsored and owned media. Here are some of the most important qualities of earned media:


Earned media originates from third-party sources, including influences, journalists, or customers, that give unbiased approval of a brand’s products, services, or messaging. This type of third-party validation boosts a business’s reputation and credibility.


Positive earned media greatly impacts a brand’s visibility and reputation, making businesses go viral. When brand content goes viral through social media shoutouts, it spreads fast and extensively over social media posts and other media distribution channels, resulting in significant earned media coverage.

This can be very efficient for increasing brand visibility and reaching new audiences.


Since earned media is generated by third-party sources, predicting when and how it will happen can be challenging. Businesses must be ready to respond to favorable and adverse earned media attention promptly and effectively.

Types of Earned Media

Brands can employ many types of earned media to boost their exposure, reputation, and credibility. Below are some common earned media examples:

Word-of-Mouth Marketing

Customer or stakeholder word-of-mouth marketing occurs when consumers or stakeholders share positive feedback about a business or its products or services with others. 

It typically happens through casual discussions, testimonials, referrals, recommendations, and user-generated content (UGC).

Social Media Mentions

Social engagement entails consumers or followers mentioning a business or its products on social media channels, including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

These mentions include recommendations, shares, likes, retweets, and comments on posts or articles. Brands can create earned media coverage and establish connections with their audiences through social media mentions.

Editorial Coverage

Editorial coverage is one of the oldest types of earned media. This form of earned media covers news features and interviews generated through media outreach and public relations activities. Editorial coverage can boost a brand’s reputation and help it reach new consumers.

Reviews and Ratings

Reviews and ratings are earned media provided by consumers or users of a product or service. They include customer reviews, industry rankings, and influencer endorsements that offer customer feedback on their interactions with the business, generally on a website or app.

Positive feedback and high ratings can assist in boosting the company’s credibility and reputation and attract new audiences.

Guest Postings or Organic Backlinks

Guest postings and organic backlinks provide an excellent opportunity for businesses to share their knowledge with new audiences while gaining backlinks to their online platform. It includes generating high-quality content through a guest blog post, resource lists, and curated content marketing.

Organic backlinks are generated naturally by other websites without any incentive from the website owner. These backlinks give a third-party endorsement of the quality and relevancy of the website.

Advantages of Earned Media

Earned media boasts a wide range of brand benefits, as highlighted below.

Trust Building

Earned media is generated through unbiased, third-party sources, making it more reliable and trustworthy than owned and paid media. Consumers are more inclined to believe that a business is credible and trustworthy when it sees positive feedback, news coverage, or social media references.

Furthermore, earned media can foster a community feel around a brand. Sharing their outstanding brand experiences on social can inspire others to interact with the business, resulting in enhanced customer loyalty and a stronger connection between the business and its customers.

Increased Brand Visibility

Earned media helps brands enhance market reach and visibility. With frequent social media and media mentions, a brand can reach new and untapped audiences more than it can with self-marketing efforts.

Also, earned media can increase brand visibility by improving organic search rankings. When a brand receives backlinks from reliable sites or is recognized in the media, search engines get signals that the brand is authoritative and relevant, helping to enhance its rankings in search engines.


Unlike owned and paid media, earned media is generated by third parties, including media coverage, social media mentions, consumer feedback, and other forms of organic marketing. As a result, brands can benefit from increased visibility without incurring the expenses of paid media.

Also, earned media can be a high return on investment (ROI) marketing approach for brands since it can drive business success without involving an immense financial commitment and has a longer lifespan than paid media.

Strategies to Generate Earned Media

earned media strategies

There are many ways to generate earned media, but some common strategies include:

Develop Quality Content

You can generate high-quality content for your target market with blogs, infographics, articles, videos, and podcasts. This helps you get earned media by attracting attention and interaction and encouraging people to share and promote the content.

However, high-quality content that creates earned media needs a planned strategy and meticulous execution.

Here are some success factors:

  • Identify your target audience
  • Focus on providing audience knowledge
  • Enhance visual appeal
  • Leverage Influencers

Partner With Influencers

Influencer marketing entails partnering with individuals with a huge social media following and harnessing their influence to promote a brand or product.

Brands can work with influencers in their industry or niche to market their goods or services. The influencers help to amplify a business’s message to their followers while creating a frenzy and engagement, generating earned media.

Some best practices for leveraging influencers include:

  • Defining your goal
  • Targeting the right influencer
  • Developing a mutually beneficial relationship
  • Tracking and measuring results

Encourage User-Generated Content

UGC refers to any type of content, such as social media submissions, reviews and testimonials, and blog comments, created by users or customers instead of the brand itself.

UGC is often seen as more trustworthy than brand-generated content because it represents the experiences and reviews of customers. Also, it drives engagement since it encourages customers to participate and contribute to a brand’s marketing efforts.

Here are tips to encourage UGC:

  • Create interactive campaigns
  • Create a branded hashtag
  • Offer incentives

Measuring the Success of Earned Media

Measuring the performance of earned media can be difficult, but some key metrics can help you determine the impact of your efforts.

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

Some possible KPIs that could be used to measure the success of an earned media campaign include:

Reach and Impressions

These metrics, including web traffic statistics and social media impressions, are critical KPIs for any earned media strategy because they indicate the potential size of your audience and the amount of awareness created via earned media.


Engagement is the level of interactions your brand receives through earned media coverage. It includes likes, shares, comments, retweets, and clicks. High engagement levels demonstrate that your brand is gaining interest and active interaction from the target audience.


Conversion signifies the number of people who execute a desired action as an outcome of your earned media coverage. It includes sign-ups, leads, and sales. Measuring conversions can help determine earned media’s effectiveness in driving business results.

Tools and Metrics

Once you gain earned media, you’ll want to ensure you can properly measure it. The following tools will help you do that:

  • Google Analytics: This is a free web analytics tool for tracking website traffic and user activity. It can help brands to determine the impact of earned media campaigns on website traffic, conversion rate, and bounce rate.
  • Social media monitoring tools: Various social media sites, like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, provide built-in analytics tools for measuring the performance of social media content. These tools can assist you in tracking engagement metrics like comments, likes, shares, and reach.
  • Sentiment analysis: This method entails analyzing the sentiment of online mentions of your brand using natural language processing and machine learning techniques.

Final Thoughts

Now that we’ve answered the question “What is earned media?” you know it’s among the most effective tools in your marketing campaign arsenal. It offers the potential to reach an extensive amount of people at just a portion of the expense of paid advertising.

However, your content marketing strategy should include paid and owned media as well to ensure you’re getting as much attention for your brand as possible. Use the strategies we discussed to get your target market talking about your business to build awareness and get more brand mentions and loyal customers today.