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The Power of Earned Media in Building Brand Reputation

Discover the power of earned media in building brand reputation. Learn how to harness its potential and unlock new heights for your brand.

Staff Writer



Imagine the impact of having your brand mentioned, recommended, and shared by trusted individuals and influential media outlets. This is the power of earned media, a force that can shape the reputation of your brand and elevate it to new heights. By earning the recognition and endorsement of others, your brand gains credibility, authenticity, and a loyal following. In this article, we will explore the significance of earned media in building and strengthening your brand’s reputation, and uncover strategies to harness its potential in today’s digital landscape. Get ready to discover the key to unlocking the true power of earned media.

What is earned media?

Earned media refers to the attention and recognition a brand receives through means of word-of-mouth, publicity, and social media mentions, without paying for advertising. It is essentially the result of customers, influencers, or media outlets willingly endorsing or sharing positive information about a brand, product, or service. Earned media is a valuable component of a brand’s marketing strategy as it can significantly contribute to building brand reputation and increasing visibility.

Definition of earned media

Earned media can be defined as organic publicity generated through external sources, such as media coverage, customer testimonials, social media mentions, and word-of-mouth recommendations. Unlike paid media, which involves purchasing ad space, earned media is gained due to the merits of the brand and the positive experiences or perceptions of customers. It is essentially the outcome of genuine public interest or engagement with a brand, making it a highly credible form of promotion.

Examples of earned media

There are numerous examples of earned media that have had a significant impact on brand reputation. One notable example is when a celebrity publicly endorses a product or service, generating widespread attention and interest. Another example is when a brand’s social media post goes viral, leading to increased brand visibility and engagement. Additionally, a positive review from a respected industry expert or influential blogger can greatly enhance a brand’s credibility and reputation. These examples highlight the power of earned media in reaching a wider audience and building brand reputation organically.

Importance of earned media in building brand reputation

Credibility and trust

One of the key reasons why earned media is important for building brand reputation is its inherent credibility and trustworthiness. When information or recommendations about a brand come from external sources, such as satisfied customers or respected media outlets, it carries more weight and authenticity. Consumers are more likely to trust and engage with a brand that has positive earned media coverage, as it validates the brand’s claims and promises.


Earned media is a cost-effective marketing strategy as it relies on organic endorsements and mentions rather than paid advertising. While paid media can be valuable for reaching a targeted audience, earned media often provides a greater return on investment. Brands can save on advertising costs by gaining exposure through word-of-mouth recommendations, social media mentions, and press coverage. By focusing on building relationships and delivering exceptional experiences, brands can generate a significant amount of earned media without spending large sums on paid advertising.

Increased brand visibility

Earned media plays a crucial role in increasing brand visibility and expanding reach. When customers or influencers share positive experiences or recommendations, it exposes the brand to new audiences who may have been unaware of its existence. This increased visibility can lead to more website traffic, social media followers, and potential customers. By harnessing the power of earned media, brands can extend their reach far beyond their existing customer base and gain traction in new markets.

Targeted audience reach

Another advantage of earned media is its ability to reach a highly targeted audience. Consumers are more likely to trust and engage with a brand when they receive recommendations or information from sources they perceive as credible and relevant. Earned media allows brands to tap into niche communities, industry experts, and influential individuals, resulting in highly targeted exposure. By leveraging earned media effectively, brands can attract the attention of their ideal customers and build a loyal customer base.

Types of earned media

Press coverage

Press coverage represents one of the most traditional forms of earned media. When journalists or media outlets cover a brand, its products, or services, it provides an opportunity for exposure and recognition. Positive press coverage can enhance a brand’s credibility, increase visibility, and attract potential customers. Brands can secure press coverage by developing relationships with journalists, distributing press releases, and showcasing unique or newsworthy aspects of their business.

Word-of-mouth recommendations

Word-of-mouth recommendations have been a powerful form of earned media for centuries. When satisfied customers share positive experiences and recommendations with their friends, family, or peers, it generates trust and interest in the brand. Given the digital age we live in, word-of-mouth recommendations have evolved to include online reviews, social media conversations, and online communities. Brands can encourage word-of-mouth recommendations by delivering exceptional products or services and actively engaging with customers.

Social media mentions

In today’s digital landscape, social media mentions have become a prominent form of earned media. When individuals share, tag, or mention a brand on social media platforms, it creates exposure and engagement. Social media mentions can range from someone expressing their love for a product, sharing a positive experience, or even a celebrity endorsing a brand. By creating shareable and engaging content, brands can increase the likelihood of social media mentions and build a community of loyal advocates.

Customer testimonials

Customer testimonials are a powerful form of earned media as they provide authentic accounts of a brand’s products or services. Testimonials offer social proof and reassurance to potential customers, instilling trust and confidence in the brand. Brands can gather testimonials by actively soliciting feedback and reviews from satisfied customers, highlighting them on their website, social media platforms, or other marketing materials. By featuring genuine testimonials, brands can leverage the positive experiences of their customers to build a strong brand reputation.

Strategies for leveraging earned media

Consistently delivering quality products or services

One of the foundational strategies for leveraging earned media is consistently delivering high-quality products or services. When customers have positive experiences, they are more likely to share their satisfaction with others. By prioritizing quality and ensuring exceptional customer experiences, brands can generate organic word-of-mouth recommendations and build a positive brand reputation.

Providing exceptional customer experiences

Exceptional customer experiences are essential for generating earned media. When customers receive personalized, attentive, and memorable experiences, they are more inclined to talk about their interactions with the brand. Positive customer experiences can lead to word-of-mouth recommendations, customer testimonials, and social media mentions. By investing in customer service and creating memorable moments, brands can drive positive earned media.

Engaging with influencers and thought leaders

Engaging with influencers and thought leaders within an industry can be a highly effective strategy for leveraging earned media. By building relationships with individuals who have a strong online presence and a dedicated following, brands can benefit from their endorsements and recommendations. Collaborating with influencers for product reviews, sponsored content, or brand partnerships can generate significant earned media exposure and increase brand visibility.

Encouraging user-generated content

User-generated content is a valuable form of earned media that can significantly enhance brand reputation. By encouraging customers to create and share content related to a brand, such as photos, videos, or reviews, brands can leverage the power of user-generated content. This not only creates a sense of community and engagement but also provides authentic content that can be shared on social media and other marketing platforms.

Measuring the impact of earned media

Quantitative metrics

To measure the impact of earned media, brands can utilize quantitative metrics such as website traffic, social media engagement, and conversion rates. By tracking the increase in website visits or analyzing the number of social media mentions and likes, brands can assess the reach and visibility generated through earned media efforts. Additionally, monitoring the conversion rates of leads or sales resulting from earned media can provide valuable insights into the effectiveness of specific strategies or campaigns.

Qualitative feedback

Qualitative feedback is another valuable tool for measuring the impact of earned media. Brands can gather feedback through surveys, customer reviews, and social media comments to assess the sentiment and perception of the brand among customers. By analyzing the qualitative feedback received, brands can gauge the level of brand reputation, customer satisfaction, and advocacy generated through earned media efforts.

Comparison with competitors

Another method of measuring the impact of earned media is by comparing a brand’s performance with that of its competitors. This can be done by monitoring media coverage, social media mentions, or conducting customer surveys to understand how the brand fares in terms of visibility, reputation, and customer perception. By benchmarking against competitors, brands can identify areas of improvement and adjust their strategies accordingly.

Challenges in earned media management

Loss of control over messaging

One of the challenges in earned media management is the loss of control over messaging. Unlike paid media where brands have full control over the content and timing of advertisements, earned media relies on external sources to communicate on behalf of the brand. This can be a double-edged sword, as positive endorsements can greatly benefit the brand, but negative or miscommunicated messages can harm its reputation. Brands must work towards building strong relationships and maintaining open lines of communication with media outlets, influencers, and customers to minimize the risks associated with loss of control.

Managing negative publicity

Negative publicity is another challenge that brands may face in earned media management. Despite efforts to deliver quality products or services, negative experiences may occur and be amplified through customer reviews or social media conversations. Handling negative publicity requires prompt and thoughtful responses, transparent communication, and efforts to rectify any issues. Proactive reputation management is essential to mitigate the impact of negative publicity and restore trust in the brand.

Ensuring consistency across different channels

With the proliferation of platforms and channels, brands must ensure consistent messaging and experiences across all touchpoints. Consistency is crucial for maintaining a strong brand identity and reputation. However, with earned media, the brand’s messaging can be interpreted and communicated differently by external sources. Brands need to continuously monitor and address any inconsistencies or misrepresentations, aligning external messaging with their brand values and guidelines.

Dealing with fake reviews or endorsements

The prevalence of fake reviews or endorsements presents another challenge in earned media management. It is not uncommon for competitors or malicious individuals to generate false positive or negative feedback to manipulate public perception. Brands must remain vigilant and employ strategies to identify and address fake reviews or endorsements. Encouraging genuine feedback from verified customers and leveraging the support of trusted influencers can help build credibility and combat the impact of fraudulent content.

Case studies of successful use of earned media

Nike’s Colin Kaepernick campaign

Nike’s Colin Kaepernick campaign in 2018 serves as an excellent example of how earned media can contribute to building brand reputation. By featuring the controversial football player in their advertisements, Nike sparked a wave of conversation and debate. The campaign received widespread media coverage, social media mentions, and even endorsements from other high-profile athletes. Despite facing some backlash, Nike’s bold stance on social issues resonated with its target audience and generated significant earned media. This campaign exemplifies how brands can leverage earned media to align with their core values and attract loyal customers.

Dove’s Real Beauty campaign

Dove’s Real Beauty campaign is another notable example of an earned media success story. By challenging beauty standards and celebrating diverse body types, Dove created a powerful message that struck a chord with consumers. The campaign’s inclusive messaging led to widespread media coverage, social media conversations, and viral content. The campaign not only strengthened Dove’s reputation as a brand, but it also fostered a positive brand image and loyal customer base. Dove’s Real Beauty campaign demonstrates the impact of earned media in championing a cause and resonating with consumers on a deep level.

Chipotle’s food safety crisis management

Chipotle’s response to a food safety crisis in 2015 provides insights into how earned media can affect brand reputation in times of crisis. Following multiple instances of foodborne illnesses, Chipotle faced negative publicity and a decline in consumer trust. However, the brand took swift action to address the situation, implementing rigorous food safety protocols and launching a comprehensive earned media campaign to rebuild its reputation. By showcasing their commitment to food safety and engaging with customers and media outlets transparently, Chipotle was able to regain consumer confidence and resume its growth trajectory.

Tips for maximizing earned media opportunities

Identify and build relationships with key media outlets

To maximize earned media opportunities, brands should actively identify and build relationships with key media outlets in their industry. By understanding the preferences, interests, and editorial guidelines of relevant media outlets, brands can tailor their pitches and content to increase the likelihood of coverage. Building relationships with journalists and journalists can help establish a rapport and position the brand as a trusted source.

Create shareable and engaging content

Creating shareable and engaging content is crucial for maximizing earned media opportunities. Brands must invest in producing content that evokes emotions, sparks conversation, or provides value to consumers. By focusing on storytelling, incorporating visuals, or leveraging interactive elements, brands can increase the shareability and virality of their content. Paying attention to trends, current events, and consumer interests can also help in creating relevant and timely content that attracts attention and generates earned media.

Monitor online discussions and respond promptly

Monitoring online discussions and promptly responding to customer feedback and inquiries is essential for maximizing earned media opportunities. Brands should actively monitor social media platforms, review websites, and online communities to gain insights into customer sentiment and address any issues or concerns. By engaging in conversations, providing timely responses, and demonstrating a commitment to customer satisfaction, brands can generate positive earned media and showcase their dedication to customer service.

Leverage social media influencers

Influencer marketing has become an integral part of earned media strategies. By strategically partnering with social media influencers who align with the brand’s values and target audience, brands can tap into their existing follower base and benefit from their influence and reach. Collaborating with influencers through sponsored content, product reviews, or brand partnerships can amplify a brand’s message and generate significant earned media exposure. It is important to ensure that influencer collaborations are authentic, transparent, and resonate with the target audience.

Best practices for managing earned media

Develop a comprehensive media relations strategy

To effectively manage earned media, brands should develop a comprehensive media relations strategy. This strategy should encompass identifying target media outlets, building relationships with journalists and influencers, creating tailored pitches and press releases, and monitoring media coverage. By establishing clear goals, defining key messages, and implementing a proactive approach to media relations, brands can effectively manage their earned media efforts and build a strong brand reputation.

Establish a crisis communication plan

It is crucial for brands to have a crisis communication plan in place to effectively manage potential negative publicity or crises. By developing a clear protocol, defining roles and responsibilities, and establishing open lines of communication, brands can respond promptly and transparently. A well-executed crisis communication plan can help mitigate the impact of negative events, protect brand reputation, and demonstrate a commitment to resolving issues.

Regularly monitor and track media coverage

Regularly monitoring and tracking media coverage is essential to gauge the impact of earned media efforts. Brands should invest in media monitoring tools and processes to stay informed about the key trends, conversations, and sentiment related to their brand. By understanding how the brand is being perceived and mentioned, brands can make data-driven decisions, identify areas for improvement, and capitalize on opportunities for further earned media exposure.

Continuous improvement based on feedback

Brands should continuously seek feedback from customers, influencers, and the media to refine their earned media strategies. Feedback can provide valuable insights into the effectiveness of messaging, campaign impact, and areas for improvement. By actively listening to feedback, brands can adapt their strategies, respond to changing consumer preferences, and continually enhance their earned media efforts.


Harnessing the power of earned media allows brands to build a strong brand reputation, increase visibility, and reach their target audience effectively. Through the credibility and trust earned from external sources, brands can generate word-of-mouth recommendations, press coverage, social media mentions, and customer testimonials. By implementing strategies such as consistently delivering quality products or services, engaging with influencers, and encouraging user-generated content, brands can maximize their earned media opportunities. The impact of earned media can be measured through quantitative metrics, qualitative feedback, and comparison with competitors. However, managing earned media also comes with challenges such as loss of control over messaging and negative publicity. By learning from successful case studies and following best practices such as developing a comprehensive media relations strategy and establishing a crisis communication plan, brands can navigate these challenges effectively. By leveraging earned media, brands can build a strong reputation, foster customer loyalty, and ultimately achieve long-term success.

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