What is the Difference Between Paid Media vs. Earned Media in PR and SEO?

Date: August 22, 2023

When increasing brand awareness through outreach, digital public relations (PR) and search engine optimization (SEO) backlinking techniques are often used. However, the media types gained through these methods are pretty different: paid and earned. This distinction is crucial to understand when developing your outreach strategy, as successful law firms know how to draw from both to create an all-around media strategy.

What is Paid Media?

Paid media is a term that is used to describe marketing or media placements that require payment. Law firms commonly use it to promote their services and drive direct traffic to their website or content. Examples of paid media include sponsorships and pay-per-click (PPC) ads. It is important to note that paid media placements in publications have less of an impact on organic search results compared to earned media in terms of SEO. While less commonly used in PR, it is widely used in SEO and marketing strategies. Paying to promote content can be an effective way to increase exposure for your law firm and its services.

What are the Pros and Cons of Paid Media?

Paid media is a way to ‘guarantee’ your target audience will see your content. It is also an excellent choice for retargeting an audience, which means reaching out to those who have previously shown interest in your law firm. Typically paid media increases the likelihood of conversions by targeting specific audiences with distinct messaging.

One of the main drawbacks of paid media is the price. The amount of money you spend on paid media can depend on the campaign type, size, and frequency. However, it is easy to measure and gain results quickly, and you have high control over the central message of the content. 

What is Earned Media?

Earned media is any media material related to your legal practice that is produced and distributed by a third party, like journalists or news outlets, without compensation. The idea behind this media is ‘earning’ credibility through relationships with journalists, which can benefit your law firm’s awareness and reputation. This form of media is often referred to as ‘publicity.’ It typically includes news articles, business reviews, and broadcast interviews. Earned media is also seen as more trustworthy than paid media.

Positive media coverage in online media outlets can increase the credibility and reputation of your law firm. And the most effective way to gain earned media is by doing something newsworthy, like opening a new practice area, promoting an attorney to a partner, etc., and sharing that information with journalists and news outlets.

What are the Pros and Cons of Earned Media?

Earned media can be an effective way to establish your law firm’s media credibility, exposure, and influence among your intended audience or the general public. Nevertheless, it requires the building of relationships with journalists and editors. It also requires a significant amount of time and effort to achieve. An excellent way to ‘earn’ earned media would be through data-driven PR.

One downside to earned media would be the difficulty in controlling and predicting whether or not your efforts will resonate with a journalist. If your newsworthy events resonate and result in a published article, it may be challenging to include backlinks. To have the backlinks included is generally based on the publications’ or journalists’ preferences.

Comparing Paid Media vs. Earned Media

When it comes to promoting practice areas and services, law firms can oversee and manage paid media. This can include various advertising and promotional materials your law firm creates and distributes. However, earned media is a different story. Unlike paid media, earned media is not directly controlled by law firms. Instead, it is gained through active public relations outreach and the establishment of positive relationships with journalists and editors. Essentially, earned media is any publicity or exposure that a law firm receives through media coverage or other forms of non-paid promotion. While paid media can be effective, earned media can often be more valuable and impactful, as potential clients see it as more credible and trustworthy.

However, there are times when paid media is used to gain earned media. For example, press releases are written by law firms that are promoted through paid media channels in an effort to achieve earned media. Ultimately, both earned and paid media can be practical tools for building brand awareness and attracting new clients. 

When deciding on which media type, earned or paid, best suits your law firm the most, it’s crucial to assess the legitimacy of your content in terms of newsworthiness, evaluate your target audience and devise a plan to reach them effectively. By doing so, you can ensure that your message is delivered in the most effective way possible.

Are you looking to gain either paid or earned media for your law firm? Our team at 9Sail can help you! Our team utilizes SEO and digital PR efforts that will help boost your brand awareness and reputation. Contact us today to find out more about our digital PR offerings.