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Don’t You Forget About Me – The Role of Earned Media in Content Marketing Success

Who can forget The Breakfast Club, the most famous of the Brat Pack movies, featuring a killer cast and one of the most memorable closing scenes of all time?

As you are reading this, I’m guessing the song lyrics are running through your head:

“Don’t you, forget about me,

Don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t

Don’t you, forget about me”

Catchy, right?

When I work with clients on content marketing strategies, often I feel like I should be wearing a trench coat, holding a boombox, playing that song on full volume. (I realize this is an entirely different ‘80s movie, but just go with me on this one.)

You are probably familiar with some aspects of content marketing such as blogs, white papers, or social media. However, if you are looking to achieve true content marketing success, then you must have a complete strategy, one that integrates all four media pillars including owned, paid, shared, and earned media.

The first three pillars most people remember. It’s the final pillar, earned media, that’s most often forgotten about.

What is Earned Media?

The role of earned media in a content marketing strategy cannot be overstated. Content marketing is not only about the production of owned content, but also the amplification of content through lead-generating tactics such as paid, social media, and earned media.

Working to achieve earned media placements will help your company build brand awareness, establish credibility, and secure valuable backlinks to your company’s website.

But more on that later, let’s first start by defining the term “earned media.” Earned media is the coverage your company receives on third-party media channels. This coverage can happen in a variety of ways including issuing a press release for a newsworthy company announcement or contributing to thought leadership content such as a contributed article, Op-Ed submission or ask the expert column. Unlike an advertisement, there is no monetary cost for the placement of the coverage, but a participating company should expect to invest resources such as subject matter expertise and staff time.

Recently, an article was published in the Washington Post that cited the declining interest from Corporate America in investing company resources to achieve positive, earned media coverage. The article provided several reasons for the decline, including corporate preference being shifted to owned media channels, such as a branded blog.

While branded blogs absolutely hold a valuable place in the modern marketing mix, it is wrong to think this owned content can be a replacement for earned media coverage.


With owned media, the content is entirely controlled by the company. With earned media, on the other hand, the content is filtered through a third-party entity who also has control over the end product.

Earned Media Establishes Credibility

As a marketing director, you are probably asking, “Why should I give up control of my content to a third-party, when I have all of these other places online I can put it and have greater control?”

The short answer is: earned media builds credibility.

And, credibility is valuable to your content marketing program in a couple of ways:

The first way is what I like to call “Street Cred.” Today’s B2B buyers are relying more on peer and industry thought leaders to shape the decision-making process. When seeking out information along the path-to-purchase, these buyers look to media outlets such as trade magazines and journals to find the peer reviews and opinions.

When a media outlet publishes thought leadership content submitted by a company, it serves as an endorsement of the company’s subject matter expertise and builds the company’s “Street Cred” in the industry.

Earned media can also provide your company with “Internet Cred.” This is the valuable backlinks earned on high domain authority websites that help drive referral traffic to your company’s website.

So, what does all of this “Street Cred” and “Internet Cred” get you?

The short answer: qualified leads for your sales team.

Connecting the Strategy

Now that I got your attention with the big L-word, let’s talk about how to connect earned media to your content marketing program.

First, your PR team must have a rock solid understanding of how media operates and how to work with journalists.

Any PR pro will tell you that media relations activities have gotten harder over the past few years. Shrinking newsrooms combined with the increase of brand journalism have led to an industry ratio of 5 PR people for every reporter. This means securing earned media coverage, especially in competitive industries, can be very challenging.

Secondly, not all PR professionals are created equal. Some PR pros specialize in crisis communications, some in corporate communications, and some are masters of digital public relations. Those of us who understand digital PR know how to create an earned media strategy that integrates into the larger content marketing plan to help drive leads.

As you sit down to work on your content marketing strategy, don’t forget to add an earned media plan to the mix.

Looking to incorporate more earned media into your content marketing program? Contact the team at Element.


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