How to Create a Winning Earned Media Plan

When you think of growing your brand’s visibility, what’s the first thing you think of? Paid ads? Your own blog, website, or social media channels? While these are valuable channels, there’s a powerful, often-overlooked strategy – Earned Media.  That’s publicity generated through promotional and public relations (PR) efforts other than paid media advertising. 

But how do you use and better yet leverage this PR Power? Let’s look at how to create an earned media plan that gains you influence – topped with a handy checklist to kickstart your efforts.

What is Earned Media?

In marketing, earned media (also called earned content or third-party mention) is a term that summarizes the publicity or exposure gained from organic efforts that haven’t been paid for on your website or social media. Earned media is typically generated from media coverage, word-of-mouth marketing, comparisons, round-ups, or reviews. Because it’s earned through non-paid marketing tactics on other websites or platforms, it can help boost your expert authority and credibility. 

Earned media is one of three types of media; the other two are owned media and paid media.

  • Owned media is content that brands create and promote on their own website, social media or platforms that they control. Examples are your website, blog, email marketing materials, white papers, and videos.
  • Paid media is content that brands pay to be shown online and distributed. These can be social media ads, Google ads, sponsorship or paid website banners. 


Understanding the Value of Earned Media

First, it’s important to understand the significance of earned media. This form of media or PR:

  1. Builds Credibility. A mention or feature by an independent third party typically holds more weight than self-promotion or paid advertising. It also increases your like, know, trust and believability.
  2. Is Cost-Effective. Earned media doesn’t require a huge budget, which makes it ideal for small businesses. When you master the Art of PR, you can save thousands of dollars a month on a publicist.
  3. Enhances SEO. Mentions from high-authority websites can boost your search engine rankings with valuable backlinks. At the same time, you’ll enhance your reputation as an industry expert when you focus on relevant keywords.   

7 Steps to Create An Earned Media Plan

Want to create an earned media strategy for your business? Follow these steps to build an earned media plan.

  1. Set clear objectives
  2. Identify your audience
  3. Create shareable content
  4. Get to know journalists and influencers
  5. Leverage social media
  6. Monitor and respond
  7. Track, measure, tweak

Let’s dive into each step.

1. Set Clear Objectives

Start by asking what do you want to achieve? Three common objectives are:

  • Boost brand awareness
  • Increase website traffic
  • Enhance brand reputation

When you zero in on what you want, you can set some tangible, achievable goals. If you want to get your brand out there – and most small business owners do – target a certain number of shout-outs or features in blogs or magazines over the next few months. Hope to increase website visits? Create a goal to hit a specific visitor count or page views. Ready to polish your online reputation? Set a target of X number of  5-star reviews per month. It’s all about making your goals feel within reach but stretched. You’re not just shooting for the stars—you’ve got a clear path mapped out to get there.

2. Identify Your Target Audience

Who do you want to reach? Create a profile that includes demographics, interests, and where your target markets hang out online. What are they reading or watching? Get as much detail as possible.  

You also want to get to know your target audience on a personal level. What social media accounts do they follow? What are they passionate about? How do they interact, or not, with the digital world? Find that perfect balance between being professional and creating a friendly, approachable tone. Invite your target market to have a conversation with your brand.

3. Create Shareable Content

You can’t control earned media directly, but you can influence it by producing well-written, shareable content. Here are some great examples of how to get earned media through quality content: 

  • Unique Research. Conduct a survey or study relevant to your industry. 
  • Infographics. Visual data is always a hit. 
  • Heartwarming Stories. Share real stories about your brand or customers.
  • Newsjacking. Hitch your brand wagon to what’s going on in the world around you. 
  • Important Announcements. Do you have a new product, CEO, or milestone? 

Is there a secret sauce to make your content irresistible? I haven’t got the exact recipe because it’s different for every small business. Creativity, brand personality, and niche-specific content make it your own. Eye-catching infographics break down complex data, inspiring stories tug on heartstrings, and jumping on the latest trend with your own twist, can add value. There’s no limit to what you can create and how you amplify content

4. Get to Know Journalists and Influencers in Your Industry

Build genuine relationships. This takes time – so don’t hurry the process.

  • Research. Identify who covers topics relevant to your industry, niche, and location (learn about local PR here). Create a contact list and update it monthly. Make edits and notes to stay current – changes happen quickly! 
  • Engage. Connect on social media, comment on stories, and appreciate their work. Build a relationship and respect their space. No stalking allowed. 
  • Pitch. If you have a compelling story, reach out. Make it concise, relevant, and tailored to your journalist’s audience. Focus on “W.I.F.T.” (What’s in it for them), not you. 

There’s no right time or particular season to pitch the press. You’ve got 12 months of opportunity, same as everyone else. Imagine nurturing a garden. You need patience, care, and your personal ray of sunshine. Corny maybe, but what makes you, you? And why should a journalist care? Create a network of mutual respect. Take time to engage, add value, share their content and celebrate their successes. Be there for them, as you want them to be there for you. 

5. Leverage Social Media

Engage with your audience:

  • Share Stories. Share user-generated content, testimonials, and customer stories. Content shared from your audience can be more powerful and believable than what you create. 
  • Engage with Followers. A simple reply or reshare can go a long way in building relationships. Create a social media action plan and designate a minimum of 15 minutes once or twice a day to see what your audience has to say. 
  • Host AMAs (Ask Me Anything). Be available for open office hours or to answer questions. This lets you directly engage with prospects and customers – and one of the many places you can build a buzz. 

About 15 years ago, a colleague asked me to visualize social media as a cocktail party. She said it’s important to hear what everyone  has to say – and that everyone’s voice matters (well, just about everyone’s). You want conversations to flow freely and comments to add life to your brand – and support what you’re doing. You’re the host making rounds, so make sure everyone feels heard, valued, and connected. 

This keeps your social media party lively, the energy moving, and everyone interacting. You’re building a loyal audience of “P.W.L.Y” (People Who Love You). And you want them to be enthusiastic about your brand!

6. Monitor and Respond

Use tools as part of your earned media plan like Google Alerts or BuzzSumo to track brand mentions – what people are saying about you. 

These tools can help you monitor your brand’s online presence, understand how customers are feeling, and allow you to respond to mentions in a timely manner.

  • Thank and Engage. If someone speaks positively about your brand or gives you a virtual thumbs up, thank them. Your customers, prospects, colleagues, and competitors are watching. 
  • Address Negative Feedback. If there’s negative feedback, respond right away and do it professionally. Customers expect a company to respond quickly and personally and want to know that you care. 

When you use monitoring tools, you’re listening to what’s going on in the digital world. They’re your eyes and ears online, and hopefully, make sure that you don’t miss a beat in conversations about your brand. 

Monitoring tools also allow you to be proactive, not just reactive, as you shape your brand’s story. Celebrate and respond to positive feedback and gracefully handle negative comments. This turns casual observers into loyal fans. Make every interaction count and show that behind your brand – and as you lead your brand – that there are real people who listen, care, and value your community.

7. Track, Measure, and Tweak

Use analytics tools to measure the impact:

  • Track website referrals
  • Monitor changes in website traffic and social media engagement.
  • Use this data to refine your approach and fine tune your social media strategy. 

As Captain PR, your job is to navigate an idea to win and influence an audience. Analytic tools map out and guide you through online engagement and consumer behavior. When you track website hits, monitor the ups and downs of traffic, and pay attention to social media interactions, you gain insight into what your audience likes, loves, and passes over. It’s not just about numbers on a screen; it’s a story of how your brand connects with people. 

Know how to evaluate the effectiveness of your marketing plan and how to use data to inform your marketing efforts to make strategic decisions to create a stronger brand presence online.

Your Earned Media Plan Checklist 

  • Set Objectives. Make sure they’re clearly defined and measurable.
  • Audience Profile. Know your target market including demographics, interests, and habits.
  • Content Strategy. Create content to meet specific goals.
  • Media List. Build a list of journalists and influencers relevant to your industry.
  • Engagement Strategy. Develop and maintain relationships with the media.
  • Social Media Plan. Create a content calendar and engagement strategy.
  • Monitoring Tools. Set up a system or tool to track brand mentions.
  • Response Plan. Develop guidelines for responding to positive and negative feedback.
  • Measurement Tools. Choose tools to track the results of your efforts.
  • Review and Refine. Schedule regular check-ins to analyze and adjust your PR strategy.

Bottomline. Earned Media Plans, and The Power of PR.

Creating an earned media plan can be a game-changer for small businesses. Third party mention builds credibility, extends your reach, and enhances your brand’s reputation without stretching your budget. To get the biggest bang for your buck and earn media mention, keep this checklist close by and refer to it often. 

One last thing, consistency is key. It’s not about hoping your post goes viral. It’s about delivering consistent value, engaging like the real you, and being present. Over time, you’ll boost organic reach and increase the chances of your content being picked up by larger platforms, which amplifies your brand even more. No-cost publicity is a great tool to add as you build your marketing plan





I’m excited to announce Marketing Mambo, my brand-new newsletter on LinkedIn. If we’re not connected on LinkedIn, please follow me there!


Robin Samora

As a small business owner for the last 20 years, I’ve gained experience, wisdom, insight, and knowledge to help you market yourself and your brand at a fraction of the cost. My focus is to use the same PR and promotional strategies used by bigger brands, and personalize them to fit your needs and goals.

I’d love to help you.

Client Reviews

Robin raises the bar for all of her clients so they can get what they want and desire. She has the experience, skill and the super passion to get us from where we are today to where we aim to be tomorrow. I am sincerely and deeply grateful to her and recommend anyone out there who launched a product or wrote a book to get in touch with Robin not tomorrow, but today.



Sign up here to get my 10 best strategies to jumpstart your business and get new clients

Please check your email for your free report.

2024 Small Business Marketing Tool Checklist

2024 Small Business Marketing Tool Checklist

Need help creating social media posts, managing marketing content, or designing ads? Download the 2024 Marketing Tool Checklist and get a list of 50+ tools to help you create content, be more efficient, and make marketing faster and easier! I've vetted these tools for you, so you know they’re great.

Better yet? Almost all of them are completely free or have a free tier.

Take a test-drive and let me know what you think!

Please check your email for your free report.


Wait... before you go, grab my
2024 Small Business Marketing Checklist

Please check your email for your special report.