March 22, 2023

Is The Future of Marketing Earned?: Ep. 35 of Red Sky Fuel for Thought Podcast

by brady.lovett in News

In this month’s episode, we focus on the sometimes-elusive form of media known as earned. This was the crux of a recent Adweek article, which argues that earned media is the best tool in the marketing playbook due to its ability to appeal to consumers who are wary of ads. (82% of consumers aged 18-24 use some kind of method to avoid seeing ads – and we’re finding that clients, too, are wary of spending big money on ads.)

We also dug into this topic in our recent News You Can Choose white paper, where we explored three major trends shaping the news environment today. These include the sheer volume of content that people now must filter through, consumers’ deepening distrust and apathy toward the news media, and the changing business of news as it becomes more difficult to capture the attention of journalists.

However, only about 11% of U.S. marketing budgets are now allotted toward earned, according to a CMO Study. So, what do we make of this?

To answer all these questions and more, moderator Linda Descano, CFA® brings in three of our most savvy news pitchers and news makers at Red Havas— Jodi Einhorn, Neil Johnson, and Bianca-Maria Cavuto – to discuss all things earned media. 

What You’ll Learn in This Episode: 

  • The difference between paid, owned, and earned media
  • Why earned media is more essential than ever before 
  • How to capture the attention of journalists in the current ‘news you can choose’ environment 
  • Advice for brand marketers looking to master the art of earned media.


To kick off the conversation, Neil Johnson, Head of Media & Publicity at Red Havas in London, helps to define owned, paid, and earned media.

“Owned media is content that the brand itself owns, such as a website, logo, or email newsletter, whereas paid is content that a brand pays for but does not own, such as a TV commercial, paid search results, or a sponsored advertorial,” explains Neil. “Earned media is content that a brand neither owns or pays for, such as an organic newspaper article, a user review, or a comment on social media.”


“As the merits of ‘earned’ media imply, we have to go out and convince media to write about a timely topic at hand,” says New York-based Jodi Einhorn, SVP, Media Relations at Red Havas. “The pros are that it has tremendous reach and opportunity to influence; the cons are that you have less control over the messaging. So, when you pay for coverage or post owned content, there is a bit more of an opportunity to own the messaging. Each has their own purpose, and one is not more versatile than the other.” 

“There’s only so much control you can have with earned media, but there are things you can do to make sure brands are getting a desired outcome.” says Bianca-Maria Cavuoto, Associate Director at Red Havas, based in Manchester, U.K. “Agency partners must manage their expectations and establish clear communication and be upfront about what it is they want to get out of a campaign. Life moves fast, media moves fast, and relevancy moves even quicker.”

“We in earned media are storytellers,” says Neil. “With ad spending being cut and shrinking across the board, earned is a trusted bet more than ever before.” 


Jodi then walks through what it takes to earn the attention of journalists in the current media climate: “Building meaningful connections with journalists starts with understanding what topics will grab their attention. It requires you to listen to what is happening around you. Once you’ve done your homework and listened to an established connection to inform your strategy, you can start to build out tidbits of news that will tell a compelling story for your audience.” 


Next, Neil explains how earned media comes with a ‘sheen of credibility’: “Authenticity and credibility matter more than ever for brands. Unlike paid or owned media, earned goes through a vetting process, needing endorsement and approval by the journalist, content creator, or influencer you’re working with. Ultimately, word of mouth is what we earn through these activations, which is a powerful tool.”


Our guests then discuss the notion that we must treat consumers ‘like participants, not targets.’

“The consumer is always right,” says Bianca. “When a campaign falls flat, you must learn from it and go back to the drawing board to understand why the intended impact wasn’t achieved. Then, you have to take those learnings and reshape your future campaigns and the way that you communicate based on what the consumer wants. There is always a requirement to deliver something that resonates with them.”

“When it comes to earned media, media is the channel used to reach the end consumer, as opposed to an owned channel where we’re going directly to the audience” says Jodi. “Earned has the added layer of convincing the media to share something that is of note to the consumer. While the playing field is a bit different, the end goal remains the same.”


Another key element to earned media is making sure a story is relevant on a local level across global markets. Jodi explains, “We operate on a global platform, and many of our companies are global businesses trying to reach new markets. Tapping into the expertise of relevant regional teams is one of the most critical assets to ensure we can jump on trends and create a narrative that will resonate with local markets around the world and not just here in the US.”


To round out our discussion, each of our guests provides one piece of advice for brand marketers and communicators who are rethinking their marketing mix and want to master the art of earned.

“Your agency partner needs to be well informed and well connected and needs to be coming to you with some key insights and journalists with an understanding of the news agenda,” says Neil. “Every day is a news day, so every day is a school day.”

“Even though it’s only getting a small portion of budget, earned should be in consideration from the moment you start to plan and develop an idea for a campaign,” says Bianca. “You have to bring in an agency and your PR specialists to make sure that the campaign is fit for purpose across all the channels, including earned.”

“As we think about external communications at a global level, mass media in regions across the globe, in markets big and small, play a key role in the interconnectedness of the world,” concludes Jodi. “To facilitate the cultural exchange of information, brand visibility, and positioning between countries, earned media, international news, and regional publications that capture the nuances of certain regions are critical in not only creating a strategy for brand communications through earned media, but enabling us to tell the story at a local relevant level.”

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