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Why Earned Media Is the Best Way to Earn Your Reputation In today's crowded marketplace, your organization needs to stand out from the crowd.

By Zach Cutler Edited by Kara McIntyre

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

There is nothing more frustrating than seeing a competitor growing faster than you solely because of name recognition, especially when you know that your product or service is vastly superior to them. However, with so many companies vying for consumer attention, it can sometimes feel like a sisyphean task trying to generate awareness for your brand.

Therefore, in an attempt to beat the competition, many organizations spend vast sums of money on in-house marketing teams or external ad agencies to generate brand awareness. While this helps, I've seen that consumers today want to ensure that whatever they are purchasing is reputable and reliable, and with the current landscape of mistrust and fake news, gaining a customer's trust is more difficult than ever. This is why earned media is so important.

What is "earned media?"

There are three types of media an organization can utilize to get their message out to the world. No, I'm not only talking about radio, TV or internet ads, rather "paid," "owned" and "earned" media.

Paid media is exactly what it sounds like: media you pay for. This can be anything from paying to place an advertisement on local or national TV to a sponsorship on a YouTube video or podcast. The great thing about living in the 21st century is that you can target your advertisements directly at your target audience. However, these ad placements don't come cheap and can be prohibitively expensive for some organizations.

Related: What Is Earned and Owned Media? And How Can They Serve Your Business?

Owned media is content which is created and maintained by the organization itself. This can include anything from company blogs and email newsletters to company social media pages. Having an online presence is extremely important in today's digital age, but typically the only people seeing it are people who already know about you. So unless your organization is already a corporate behemoth, you're essentially just preaching to a small choir of followers.

Finally, there is earned media, which is essentially "word of mouth" turned up to 11. This is media that you get from a third party such as a social media influencer or a writeup in a media outlet. In my opinion, this is the best kind of media, because not only is it free, but it also lends credibility to your brand. It's a testament to your brand's quality if influencers and mainstream media are talking about you of their own volition. At the end of the day, being known as a credible organization with a good reputation is worth more than any amount of paid advertising.

Customer trust is everything

According to research by Edelman, being able to trust a brand is the second most important factor customers consider when deciding whether to purchase a product or service, right behind price. One of the best ways to obtain this credibility among the public is through earned media, especially by being organically mentioned or covered in a news article in a well-known publication or by a major social media influencer. Despite what people might say in polls, the public still puts a lot of trust in mainstream media.

Therefore, if your organization is able to comment on an issue in a knowledgeable way, be it by contributing thought leadership articles about an issue in your field or having one of your C-suite quoted in a major industry or top tier publication, the trust bestowed on that outlet is also extended to your organization. Earned media is the best way to not only increase trust in your brand, but also to position you and your colleagues as authoritative figures within your industry.

Related: 5 Strategies for How to Make Customers Trust Your Brand

EATing to increase your SEO score

Yet another benefit of earned media is how it positively affects the search engine optimization (SEO) of your organization. This is because search engine algorithms also take into account "trust" metrics, and the more you are organically mentioned in the media or by influencers, the higher your website appears in search engine results.

Take Google's search quality evaluator guidelines for example, which explicitly states that the more an organization is organically mentioned, the higher its ranking and placement in search results will be. The company even came up with a nifty name for this metric — the EAT score — which stands for expertise, authority and trustworthiness. Therefore, the higher your organization's EAT score, the better your organization will perform in search engines, leading to more brand awareness along with more trust and consumer confidence in your product or service.

Will this break my budget?

One of my favorite things about earned media is its bang for its buck. It costs next to nothing to pitch a story to a journalist or influencer, so organizations of all sizes have a shot at getting their voice heard.

While all three types of media are important for creating brand recognition, in today's business climate, customers are looking for stable and reliable companies to do business with. Therefore, more than ads or blog posts, your organization needs to invest time and energy into its earned media strategies so it can build a good reputation and establish legitimacy, gain the trust of potential clients and increase its SEO, all without breaking the bank.

Zach Cutler

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

Co-Founder, CEO & Chairman at Propel

Zach Cutler is a comms veteran and technologist on a mission to innovate the public relations industry. He created Propel, which is the fastest growing media-intelligence and PR software in the world.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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