The Value Of Earned PR vs Paid And How To Get an A* in Earned Media

The Value Of Earned PR vs Paid And How To Get an A* in Earned Media
The Value Of Earned PR vs Paid And How To Get an A* in Earned Media

Because we’re in the business of PR, we’ll PR until the cows comes home. And, we will tell meaningful, impactful stories until the coverage comes home.

When it comes to marketing, we’re all aware of adverts. We gaze aimlessly at posters while waiting for the tube, skip through branded jingles on the radio and swipe through sponsored pop-ups on our social media platforms. As consumers we’re increasingly fatigued by advertising and, in turn, brands often feel their spend is misplaced when they don’t achieve the ROI they had initially hoped for.

The time is now for earned media – where the power of your story is so strong that editors can’t resist publishing it, without stinging that precious budget pot marketeers hold the purse strings so tight to.

It’s easy to think, that with the rise of mobile and e-commerce, and access to product through every touchpoint, as well as rumours that print is dying, that earned media has taken a backseat. Well we say, not a chance.


With advertising, you pay for guaranteed space – whether it’s popping up during your weekly YouTube episode, in the back pages of a print newspaper, a website banner or outdoors on a big billboard overlooking Sunset Boulevard. You can carefully curate an ad where the wording, artwork and approach aligns exactly with your brand, mission and key messages. Your virtual signaling “buy my product because trust me, I’m great”.

A consumer might stop, take note. They may flick through or scroll on. Brands pay a juicy sum for one of these flashes in the consumer’s eyes. The trouble is, a digital placement means your ad sits (briefly) alongside competitors, battling for attention. Conversely, out-of-home and print ads are pricey and difficult to measure in terms of success.

We PR’s are now lucky enough to enter boardrooms armed with clear metrics articulating the power of earned media. Once upon a time they would question its value and it was difficult to win your own case. Excitingly, there are countless tactics you can employ to maximise your PR efforts and drive meaningful brand awareness.

Don’t get me wrong, ads work. But they’re not cheap but we’re just saying that there are more cost-effective (almost free) ways in which you can spend your business’ hard-earned dollar. PR can help you get so much more bang for your buck.

Let’s put this into context with a visual.

The cost of a monthly digital PR retainer at say £7,000, will only buy one of these: 

Looks a little limiting, right?  Well take this latest research statistic in… when it comes to advertising and marketing, 4% is remembered positively, 7% is remembered negatively and 89% isn’t remembered at all.

When you’ve taken a moment to absorb that fact, let’s move on to how to be the best PR of all PR’s, ever.


First things first, who do you want to target? What journey do you want to set them on? And, what do you want the outcome of engaging with them to be?

Sure, you can place an ad in the Daily Mail because it’s a national, right? But it’ll only work if your audience are avid readers of that paper and, beyond that, if they’re in a ‘buy’ mindset there-and-then.

If you’re telling consistent, meaningful stories through PR, you widen the net, increasing the chances of speaking to people who was to spend, with touchpoints across different channels.

We’d always argue that knowing your audience upfront – their pains and gains, favourite past-times, preferred publications – is more valuable. They need to buy into your brand to help you reach wider business objectives. So, understanding their traits before you action how to enlist them is imperative.


As our addiction to social media has escalated in recent years, our attention spans have decreased substantially to just eight seconds (from 12 seconds in 2000) – that’s less than your average goldfish, who loses interest at nine seconds. When we’re spending 50 whole days a year online, that’s a lot of mindless swiping. So, to truly catch – and keep – a consumer’s attention, you need to drip-feed your brand. One ad in the back pages of a paper simply won’t cut it these days.

Our Bottle motto is “Brands flow when their stories flow”. So, we set forth a steady stream of stories that are distinct, timely and interesting, punctuated with ‘hero’ moments in your marketing calendar that make your audience think I wasn’t expecting that. Every story aligns with your brand’s mission and topline messages, but is presented in a memorable, meaningful way to enter – and stay in – your audience’s conscience on a consistent basis.

Why pay for placements in two newspapers, when you could earn 10, or if you’re having a lucky month, 100 pieces of coverage, across the right publications? If you’re targeting millennials, coverage on Buzzfeed or Stylist are more likely to be your media winners. If SME owners are your segment, and Talk Business are the titles to target. No matter how widespread or specialist you want to go, a strong story will secure you attention.


Tackle topics that matter to your audience. As consumers, we’re thirsty for knowledge that helps us grow personally and professionally. Engage expert spokespeople to be your brand’s credible voice-box that speaks to, educates, reassures and guides the people that matter.

Be rooted in the real world, with case studies telling relatable, or conducting informative research. Whether you’re picking a fight, or owning a corner of the conversation, authenticity is key.

So, you’re a health brand. You engage a psychologist, brief them on a topic and how this aligns with a new campaign you’re working on. Complement this clinical expertise with a real, ‘human’ case study, offer a distinct story to an editor and bam – you’ve got a full page spread sprinkled with brand mentions on a topic that’s relevant to you. Your audience buys into it, thinking “this article has really struck a chord and this guy, from this brand, really knows his onions”. *Humble brag* like this piece of coverage we achieved in the Daily Telegraph for our AXA PPP healthcare psychologist and case study, a SME entrepreneur.

There are sophisticated ways to measure results, too – it’s possible to track website traffic, audience insights and conversion, reach, and how many people have shared your content on social. Evaluation of such metrics is crucial in converting business objectives into measurable outcomes that support the bottom line and drive growth. Fortunately, savvy brands are planning to increase spending on marketing analytics by between 75 and 100 percent.


The goal is for editors to view your brand as a go-to for expertise and / product offering. This frequency and momentum of coverage will not only get you noticed once but give you regular visibility to the people that matter. Don’t forget, that if you say someone’s name three times, you’re more likely to remember it – the same applies to brands.

Crucially, if the story you’re telling – via the medium of an expert spokesperson, or an eye-catching infographic you whipped up – is powerful enough, editors will cover it and crave more. In turn, their readers – your audience – will lap it up. After all, editors are set KPIs based on clicks, the time a reader stays on a page and social shares. If they can see content connected to you is performing well, they’ll keep comin’ back. It’s possible (trust us, we live it every day), to land organic media coverage that reaches the right people, regularly.

The old saying goes: “Advertising is what you pay for, publicity is what you pray for”. Rather than telling the world you’re great, PR helps you prove it.