What is Earned Media and How Does a Business Use It?

Brands need media traction; otherwise, nobody would know who they are and what they do. Before the days of social media, press releases were one of the primary methods of generating earned media. Nowadays, social media users like, comment, and share posts about brands and products to their hearts’ content, making earned media a goldmine for brand traction.

But before we get too far ahead of ourselves – what is earned media, and how does a business use it? Starting with an earned media definition, we’ll break down the topic with a focus on:

  • Earned media definition
  • Measuring your earned media
  • Generating earned media

Here are a few earned media statistics we uncovered that shed light on this critical resource for brand traction:

  • Generating earned media is essential since 92% of consumers trust a user’s experience related on social media more than they trust a brand’s advertising efforts.
  • 63% of adults habitually talk about a brand’s products and services online. 81% of social media users read and consider what others have to say about a brand and its products.
  • Leads generated through earned media outperform paid media leads by 10 – 15%.

With that, let’s dive into an earned media definition and how brands can benefit.

To clarify our earned media definition, let’s first examine its counterpoints – owned media and partnered media. Owned media is any content authored by your brand and commonly consists of blog posts, social media posts, and content published on your brand’s websites. In short, it’s content you control.

Partnered media is content generated through a collaboration between two or more organizations. Partnered media could be traditional or social media advertising, sponsored posts using influencer marketing, or partner-authored posts on domains such as blogs, review sites, and forums. This type of media is almost always paid for.

On the other hand, earned media is simply every other type of media that mentions your brand and is unsolicited. This could come as media coverage, an unpaid blog or YouTube product review, and even a simple tweet about your brand like the one below.

Sometimes I like to pretend I’m sad so I can eat a whole Ben and Jerry’s pint but tell myself it’s ok because I’m sad.

— Nabe_Gamma (@nabe_gamma) June 18, 2021

For most brands and institutions, social media mentions are far and away the most significant source of earned media. Of course, more prominent brands such as Apple or Tesla attract tons of earned media through traditional news outlets as well. Depending on your product or category, your mileage may vary.

Regardless of your industry, you’ll want to know where you stand with how much earned media your brand generates. After all, your target consumers are likely to trust these sources more than they will your in-house messaging efforts.

Before your brand can form an effective strategy to generate positive earned media, you need to know what you have now – and where it’s coming from. With the vast amounts of news sources, blogs, and social media platforms across the globe, consumers have a wide variety of channels to absorb, create, and share brand-centric content.

To accomplish this, social listening and data analytics tools are your best option for capturing where your earned media exists in the wild. That way, you can measure your overall metrics, sources, domains, and authors generating the lion’s share of your traction.

You can turn to the news and blogs dataset to capture articles written about your brand for a news media perspective of your earned media. Then, of course, you can break it down by source country, source quality, publishers, journalists, etc.

For example, here’s Boeing’s earned media from news articles published in the UK over the past four months. We’ve sorted the bar chart here by source publishers to see which ones cover the brand the most for UK readers.

That’s just one side of the earned media coin, however. Capturing earned media from social networks and tracking your metrics over time ensures you’re getting the full picture.

In this example, we’ve used the summary metrics tool to see how earned media from social media posts performs alongside owned and partnered social media. And we’ve done that across brand mentions, posts, net sentiment, and passion intensity.

Of course, the benefits of measuring these earned media definition metrics over time should be immediately apparent to your brand.


The ability to capture where your earned media is coming from unlocks the capability of drilling into your data for further insight. As such, you can uncover the themes and types of content that are spurring traffic more than others.

This, of course, allows you to strategize what type of content you promote so you can further align with the topics and themes that are drawing the interest of the news media, as well as that of your target audience on social media platforms.

Specifically, you can use the earned media data that you uncover with your social listening tools and data analytics to:

  • Craft press releases geared towards generating traction with the journalists and publishers most likely to write about your brand in the news media.
  • Extract keywords from the topics and themes with the most engagement to inform your SEO strategies and drive organic search traffic to your brand.
  • Create more of the content that is most likely to get shared on social media.
  • Choose social media influencers that align with the content that drives your earned media for increased reception and engagement.

Now that you have a solid earned media definition under your belt, along with the ways it can help your brand, there’s no reason not to grow your engagement. If you’d like to see what a personalized approach looks like, be sure to reach out for a demo – we’d be happy to get you on your way!