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Media Relations Part 1: The difference between earned and paid media

This is the first in a series of three articles exploring media relations; to begin, we’ll examine the role of journalists as well as the difference between earned and paid media.

For some business owners and executives, the thought of fielding questions from the press is uncomfortable. On the surface, the fear of media interaction may seem justified. After all, incidents of businesses crumbling under a flood of negative headlines aren’t uncommon. Realistically though, the problem is not the press – it is how we engage (or don’t engage) with them.

Over the years the need for proactive public relations efforts, especially engaging with the media, has become more essential. Unfortunately, according to Statistica, only 46 percent of large enterprises recognize the importance of PR and utilize it; the number of small to medium businesses is likely even smaller.

Our team is made up of experts in media relations, as well as former journalists, and we feel it is our duty to emphasize the need to work with the press – and not against them. First, it’s important to understand what “media” is.

Differentiating earned media from paid media

In the US, the press is also called the “fourth estate,” representing an unofficial addition to the checks and balances that were created to foster democracy. While there are reporters with have negative intentions, the vast majority feel an obligation to keep the public informed – they became journalists for “the greater good.”

Fundamentally, a news outlet is made up of two parts:

  •  Editorial

The editorial department includes reporters and editors. They are responsible for ensuring the news is reported in a way that is accurate, unbiased and as complete as possible.

Some newsrooms may also have editorial boards which review columns or special segments, op-eds and other opinion-based content that may be featured. This team also drives the decision for an outlet to endorse a candidate or take a stand on a political issue. These boards are generally made up of an entirely different team to prevent editorial bias from going beyond the opinion section.

News articles and blatant political endorsement may be two very different things, however, they have something in common: You can’t pay for these placements, so they are considered earned media.

●       Advertising

This department is revenue focused. This team handles paid media placements in print, online, out-of-home or broadcasting (TV and radio). This includes sponsored content and advertorials.

While advertising is an effective avenue for enhancing brand awareness, it has its limitations; for example, 40 percent of internet users utilize some sort of ad-blocking tool, making that audience more difficult to reach.

Additionally, research from Verizon revealed that in the B2B space, 80 percent of decision-makers prefer to learn about a company through articles, rather than advertisements, and about 70 percent of consumers agree, emphasizing the need for earned media in addition to pay-to-play placements.

Having an understanding of the difference between earned and paid media is the first step in successfully engaging with journalists. In the second part of our series, we explore the benefits of proactive media relations.

In the second part of our series, w

If you are interested in learning more about how public relations can benefit your company, let’s talk! Please get in touch with us by sending an email to service@artemia.com.


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