Is Earned Media a Thing of the Past?


As the media landscape continues to drastically change (read: shrink), and placing stories has become increasingly difficult, we’ve all faced the dreaded client question: “Is earned media still a thing?”

You know it!

It can’t be denied that the entire media industry continues to be reshaped and upended, and there is definitely a place for paid placements. Though one thing rings true: nothing gets in the way of a good story. But it does require a specialized approach. And I’ll let you in on a little secret: tried and true bread-and-butter PR – albeit top shelf bread and butter – is at the core. 

Let’s dig in – bon appétit. 

Media Relations 

Media relations means communicating anything that has to do directly with your business, as well as the larger industry or customer implications, to the media to advance a company’s mission, vision, and message to market. Examples include a product launch, a customer case study, a new partnership, etc. 

For each one of these pieces of PR gold, there is no rip-and-replace model – there must be a unique strategy tailored to the story you’re trying to tell, the audience you’re trying to reach and, most importantly, the journalist you’re targeting. 

Which brings me to the most important piece of media relations: media relations! Building and cultivating genuine relationships with relevant reporters is where it’s at. Get to know them by reading their articles (yes – I said it), checking out their social media, subscribing to their newsletters. Did you attend the same university? Do you like the same music? Are you both obsessed with pigs? Find an in – strike up a conversation. 

If there is mutual interest, grab a coffee (virtual or in the flesh) and learn about them on a human level – and they, you. A real relationship coupled with thoughtful storytelling can mean quicker response times, willingness to tell you what’s needed to put pen to paper, and having more opportunity to get that meaty earned coverage – over and over. 

Thought Leadership

Thought leadership is all about commenting on the haps around the business – macrotrends, current events, breaking news – and transforming company spokespeople into industry visionaries.

But how does a PR pro keep a consistent thought leadership cadence without a price tag? How do we count the ways? Here are a few:

  • PR/Journo Collab Opportunities: Work smarter, not harder. Go where the reporters are! Free services like Qwoted, platforms like LinkedIn and X (FKA Twitter), and even publication newsletters offer press opportunities on a silver platter. #JournoRequest, anyone?
  • Newsjacking: Whether you’re email blasting, offering unique commentary or drafting long-form content, make sure your subject matter experts are saying something new, different, instructive and maybe even spicy. Oh – and fast. 
  • Market Research: “Say it together now: “Data is gold.” So why not create your own? Conduct market research that aligns with timely industry trends and key areas of focus for reporters—stats and findings they’ll want to use in their articles. And watch the coverage trickle in for months and years to come.

Long-Form Content

Technically, long-form content falls under thought leadership, but the written word deserves a category of its own. Whether a byline, op-ed, or open letter, long-form content is the gift that keeps on giving – on the house. Not only does it provide a platform to get all points across in one fell swoop, but a controlled nose-to-tail message is a PR dream. It is increasingly harder to place long-form content these days, but there really is no substitute for good ideas paired with great writing and perfect timing. And now your team has fodder for additional proactive pitches. There’s no such thing as one and done. 

Earned media is very much alive – and as part of a comprehensive PR program, can make your business unstoppable. When in doubt – go back to basics, just be sure to turn up the flavor and heat.