3 Tips for Securing Earned Media in Today’s Evolving Environment

March 16, 2022

Online technology has transformed all aspects of American life in recent years including the ways we consume and interact with media. Whether it be print, broadcast or online outlets, the gathering and dissemination of news and other content has become a 24/7 enterprise. Local newspapers have become an endangered species, and a majority of Americans now look primarily to social media or even late night comedians for their news.

So, how does this evolving landscape influence how PR pros think as they seek to secure earned media coverage on behalf of their clients?

Print Media’s Business Model is Being Reinvented

First, media companies have been forced to get creative about their business model. The precipitous decline of traditional advertising has forced many to revert to subscriptions as their primary source of income. Many are now giving away some content via news aggregators such as Flipboard as a means of enticing new paid subscribers, while others keep most of their editorial content locked behind paywalls. Another growing source of media revenue has been the advent of affiliate marketing— in which publishers earn a commission for including links to products featured in their digital articles.

The Growing Impact of social media on the Tone and Tenor of Media Coverage

Online influencers (including reporters) continue to gain status through the size of their audience, which means traditional media outlets find themselves locked in a battle for attention and clicks. This has resulted in a proliferation of more provocative content (e.g., clickbait, fake news, etc.) which typically garners higher rates of audience engagement versus traditional fact-based coverage. Social media algorithms magnify this effect by promoting content that receives the most user attention, using popularity as a proxy for quality.

The Distinction between Owned and Earned Media is Increasingly Blurred

It is increasingly difficult to discern between earned versus paid content. For example, a growing number of brands including Red Bull, General Mills, SAP and others now publish their own branded content which rivals most traditional media outlets in quality, while enabling them to preserve 100 percent control of the messaging. Additionally, sponsored content and native advertisements now regularly appear in traditional news outlets including The New York Times, The Atlantic, The New Yorker, and The Wall Street Journal.

What All This Means for Earned Media

  1. So, with all these emerging cross currents, what are the lessons for marketers hoping to secure earned media coverage?
    With newsrooms cut to the bone, journalists are relying on PR professionals for ideas. In our experience, a well-written, timely pitch can still land a story with enough tenacity.
  2. With most reporters now acting as freelancers, the best strategy is to follow the journalist, not the publication. Sometimes a great pitch can result in multiple stories across several outlets.
  3. The distinction between traditional media and podcasts is beginning to disappear. For those seeking thought leadership opportunities in long-form outlets, podcasts can be a viable choice. Additionally, coverage on a podcast can spur traditional earned media coverage later if you amplify it with the right audiences.

As an integrated marketing and communications agency, Wilks Communications Group can help you develop the optimal earned media strategy for your brand. Email us at to learn more about how we can help you tell your brand story to key constituencies through a comprehensive media-centric program.

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