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Everyone wants results – the faster, the better. And when it comes to driving conversions from a marketing campaign, there’s no such thing as too soon, whether you’re a startup or an established brand.

It’s undisputed that earned media takes longer to drive results than it takes for paid media. With the latter, you can get ads in front of major audiences with just a few clicks. Earned media is more like a fortress that you build brick by brick over time. And yet, more marketers are shifting away from paid media to earned media than ever before. The reason – a need to build customer trust.

Why earned media is more vital than ever in 2023 and beyond

Social media ads offer a quick and effective way to reach large audiences even for a brand that is just starting out. And with a suitable targeting strategy, those ads can drive significant conversions.

Paid ads, however, can have the opposite effect if customers see too many of them. They could be viewed as an intrusion on customer feeds, or as an obvious marketing ploy, and many people might be inclined to disbelieve the claims being made. This is particularly true given the proliferation of fake news and scaremongering tactics in recent times. There’s also the fact that paid ads can be used by scamsters to collect personal information or even to install harmful
software on the customer’s devices. And in an age where AI is infiltrating more spaces than ever, it’s understandable that people would view what they see online with more skepticism, and possibly judge a lot of content as “robot-generated”.

By contrast, earned media is exactly what it sounds like – the exposure you get when someone who’s used your product or consumed your content choose to share it with their network. In other words, your content is regarded as reliable enough for members of the public to share it of their own volition. This could take the form of:
● A subject matter expert linking back to a blog on your website
● Micro-influencers mentioning your product without a paid partnership agreement
● A blog or social post being featured on a prominent news outlet
● Customers forwarding your content or recommending your products by word of mouth
In general, the content that gets shared this way is “human” content, i.e., content that has an authentic feel and speaks directly to the heart. As such, when something is shared via earned media, it’s almost certain to be created by real people.

It takes time to build a reputation through earned media, and the brand has no control over whether any particular piece of content will be shared or not. However, the goal is to consistently put out authentic, informative content that customers will come to rely on over time – at which point they will willingly share it, without needing to be prompted or paid. And it is this kind of reputation that will hold brands in good stead, regardless of what their rivals might accomplish with paid campaigns or what new developments in AI content might bring.

How to balance paid and earned media

Earned media is a long game by nature. And for brands that are just getting started, paid media is certainly a quicker way to get in front of target audiences and start selling. As PR professionals, however, we always recommend keeping earned media in the mix, even if it’s only 20%. It could take the form of thoughtful blog content, or a “behind the scenes” Instagram channel where followers can connect with the brand, or even just building relationships with journalists and media houses that can eventually feature your brand. As you mature and grow, the paid/earned mix can shift more in favour of the latter, especially as your brand name gathers repute and media outlets know that they can trust you.

Ultimately, there is room for both in the media mix. And when you work with the Star Squared PR team, you’ll see that we make optimal use of both to reach your marketing goals. Our aim is to build the sort of trust that outlasts fads or seasonal demand and holds you in good stead as you evolve. With leading PR professionals at the helm, we’ve helped dozens of brands acquire the repute they deserve – and we’d be delighted to do the same for you.