5th September 2017

Are PR and Earned Media Just the Same Thing in Today’s Digital World?

Many still see PR and earned media as separate entities. However, with almost all news sites getting the majority of their traffic through mobile now, the distinction between the two is becoming increasingly blurred.

But what precisely is ‘PR’? For some, ‘traditional PR’ (largely) means securing positive, physical press coverage in media and online for a brand or individual. For others, it’s simply – relating to the public. How this is done and the channels required can take various forms.

This traditional PR is gradually evolving into ‘earned media’ and it’s this earned and paid coverage that’s now dictating next day’s print headlines too – unless we’re talking breaking, investigative or ‘hard’ news.

At the start of the digital revolution, the PR industry predicted earned media would spell the end for ‘traditional PR’, but the two have simply converged over time into the same thing.

That’s not to say the future of ‘earned’ media is safe itself either. With more and more sites, such as Joe.co.uk or Unilad resisting the publication of content that isn’t paid for, purely earned content (such as this –  which we secured for Pizza Hut Restaurants via MTV) is becoming harder and harder to secure.

With this in mind, agencies and in-house PR practitioners need to be more creative than ever before. They need to really listen and – more importantly – understand and interpret what their audiences want to consume and what the media they are targeting would naturally feature. If they don’t, paid is the only option – and even then it needs to be right for the channel.

As such, traditional PR practitioners need to adapt and think bigger than purely earned media. They must consider much larger-scale campaigns that don’t wholly rely on either traditional ‘PR’ or earned, if they intend to meet objectives and deliver a brand’s desired KPIs.

There is still a place for both traditional PR and earned media in the marketing mix. Nevertheless, they must be elements of a much larger, integrated campaign that takes into consideration social media, content as a wider entity, and experiential and digital as well.

By Lisa Hale, Senior Account Director