PR agencies dedicate a great deal of time and effort into securing media coverage for their clients, and there are good reasons for this. The right type of media coverage can support an organisation to grow their brand and develop a good reputation, all whilst connecting with their key stakeholders. However, securing media coverage or earned media is not the only option available to PR practitioners and organisations. Paid and owned media also present opportunities to reach stakeholders.
Paid Media: This occurs when an organisation pays to receive media placement. This typically happens in newspapers and online media outlets. Paid media allows organisations to spread their message, ensuring that it is not altered in any way. Paid media also allows organisations to choose which publications their message appears in. This is a vital tool when looking to communicate with a specific audience. The growth in social media has also enabled smaller businesses and organisations to utilise paid media. Paid media allows for organisations to develop their own content, helping to ensure they have a consistent voice when communicating. Paid media is often used when organisations want to highlight achievements such as an anniversary or showcasing awards, and when they want to guarantee that their story will appear.
Earned Media: Earned media is very much at the heart of what PR practitioners do. It is achieved when an organisation receives media coverage based on their milestones or announcements. Earned media is highly regarded among PR practitioners as a means of building and maintaining a brand and good reputation. This high regard for earned media within the PR industry is because the information makes its way into the public domain by way of journalists, who are independent and bring an added element of trust. Public trust is vital for any organisation to be successful and earned media is one of the best avenues to achieve this. Media outlets have an established following, and earned media coverage allows for organisations to tap into this established following through highly credible sources. In order to gain earned media, it is important to ensure that a story is newsworthy. Journalists will not run with stories if there is not a compelling angle. It is very much down to PR practitioners to understand the types of stories that will generate earned media and the strategies best placed to gain that earned media.
Owned Media: Owned media refers to media channels that are owned and operated by organisations. The most common forms of owned media are an organisation’s social media accounts and websites. Social media accounts are extremely popular given the fact they are free to operate and the large audience that they provide access to. Recent data shows that over 3.95 million people use some form of social media in Ireland (Digital 2022: Ireland report, available here). Websites and social media allow organisations to communicate directly with their publics. While owned media allows for an unaltered message, it typically does not come with the same level of added trust that is seen with earned media or third-party endorsement.
All three forms, whether paid, earned or owned, are likely to lead to different results for organisations depending on the nature of the content. An experienced PR practitioner will understand the most appropriate media platform for a client or organisation’s message and decide on a strategy with a client’s desired goals in mind.