GroundFloor Media & CenterTable Blog

As the media landscape rapidly transitions from lush rolling hills to a scorched desert, the PR industry is becoming more creative about getting information about organizations, products and services out proactively.

In the process, the line between earned media and paid media is getting more blurred than in the past. Marketing and SEO companies that pay for placement are competing for PR business, and leaving those of us in PR industry explaining why we’re getting fewer media hits.

Though there can be value in going the paid social media route, there’s a clear distinction between paying for play and earning coverage—and the benefits are totally different.

Earned media, for instance, can help bring a client more credibility and foster real conversations with customers. Paid media is a good tool for clients who need to get the word out quickly via a one-way, broadcast model.

At the firm where I work, we use the list below to help our clients understand the different benefits of earned media and organic social media versus paid media and seeded social media:

Earned media fosters authentic conversations.
Paid media pushes information out.

Earned media helps drive consumer engagement.
Paid media is based on a one-way, bullhorn model.

Earned social media conversations are organic.
Paid social media conversations tend to be focused on marketing.

Earned media enables interaction with clients and brands.
Paid media offers an introduction to goods and services.

Earned media is more targeted.
Paid media casts a wider net.

Earned media is distributed via endless channels of information.
Paid media is distributed on limited channels of information.

Earned social media is prioritized for organic search engine optimization (SEO).
Paid social media is prioritized for paid SEO.

There is no right or wrong; they are just different approaches. Often, we recommend a combination of both, being clear about the pluses and minuses of each, such as how number of hits isn’t the same as quality of hits.

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