Earned media and the PESO framework

In our last blog we took a wide angle look at the PESO framework; what it stands for and how to use it as a planning tool in PR and marketing campaigns.

PESO is helpful because it provides an overview of different media types, but also because it helps us identify where these areas overlap and have synergy. If you missed our first blog, read all about the PESO framework and how it can help your business or client before diving in here.

Each of our next four blogs will now take one aspect of the PESO model and investigate it more thoroughly.

We’re starting with earned media because, as a PR company, this is our heartland at AMBITIOUS. As the name suggests, ‘earned’ media is the sort that you have to work hard for. It’s not as simple as hitting ‘publish’, ‘share’ or ‘promote’ – it involves time and energy to make earned media a success.

What is earned media?

Earned media refers to unpaid coverage that is generated through press releases, features, providing topical comments, broadcast interviews and influencer outreach. It includes:

  • Media relations – such as reviews, mentions in features and news pieces, bylined articles, letters to editors, television and radio interviews and mentions.
  • Blogger relations – such as reviews, mentions and syndicated content on blogs.
  • Podcasts – audio interviews and contributions
  • Influencer relations – influential figures in your industry choosing to promote your business or client without payment.
  • Word of mouth – any coverage or promotion gained organically through word of mouth (for example, as a result of seeing media coverage).
  • Link building – links back to your company website from other, reputable sources.

Why day-to-day relationship building matters in earned media

Earning this kind of coverage often takes some serious networking and relationship building and there’s lots of simple daily tasks that will help before you even consider getting any coverage:

  • Knowing the best person to send your press release, feature synopsis and editorial pitch to saves it from being ignored in a general info@ email address that you find on the publication’s website.
  • Do your research by reviewing who’s writing or interviewing, and understand particular subjects or themes they cover. This will help you tailor your media pitch. Social media channels such as Twitter can be useful for finding journalists too. Hashtags such as  #journorequest can help you search media requests for editorial content
  • Build your contact list wisely and thoroughly. Keep a spreadsheet of all media contacts you know and keep it up to date as people move on. Make notes if they provide feedback about what they are interested in, or when is the best time to pitch to them, and keep tabs for different types of media.
  • Build ongoing relationships with bloggers and influencers via the brand you’re promoting. Like their content on social media, comment on it and share it to put your brand on their radar before you wade in with a request.
  • Be reciprocal and think about what you can offer them. Leave positive reviews on their Facebook page or link back to them from a relevant blog post and they will be more likely to do the same for you.

The power of earned media in your PR campaign

Each PR campaign is different – depending on your objectives, you’ll need to utilise the different PESO content channels to varying degrees. But there’s no doubt that good quality earned media always makes a valuable contribution.

So how do you do it well? Building earned media can be daunting for businesses and brands – so much relies on networks and relationships, aswell as timing, topicality and context . And there’s no exact science to refer to. But there are some useful do’s and don’ts that will undoubtedly give you a headstart.


  • Start by following all the tips in the previous section: Accept that it is time consuming and invest in the long-term vision. Earned media is best supported as an ongoing process
  • Be clear about your goals: Simply aiming to be featured in The Guardian is too vague. Know the reasons why this publication is on your hit list, understand where your brand fits into it and work back from there. Shape a pitch that fits the format and build a relationship with the journalist on social media before approaching them.
  • Take small steps: It’s much easier to get an influencer to provide a short quote for a blog you’re writing than to get them to post about you, for example. Hook them in with something simple and then build the relationship from there.
  • Invest in creating interesting hooks, something new: Media platforms and influencers need to engage their audiences, so they have to ensure the content they publish and share with their readers, views and subscribers is newsworthy and valuable. As a brand, business or organisation, you need to make sure what you’re pitching has value to the journalist or influencer. Access to a CEO for an interview, industry research and insight or a new product or service launch are tried and tested ways to secure earned media coverage. Or, if there’s something appealing you can offer journalists, bloggers or influencers to do or experience then use it! For example, when we worked with Bristol Marriott Royal Hotel, we invited a small but specialist group of key influencers to spend the night at the hotel to get the full experience. We also held another intimate and exclusive event in the Royal Wing specifically aimed at 25 micro influencers, with a cocktail demonstration, photo wall and food displays.
  • Make the most of your results: This activity not only resulted in exceeding our press coverage target across media sectors, it also secured user generated content from social influencers, blogs and vlogs. This is where the media types start to overlap on the PESO framework, as this content gave the hotel a bank of evergreen social content to share on social media for a number of months afterwards.


  • Expect it to happen overnight: Did we mention that this kind of activity takes time? Rushing in with badly prepared pitches or inappropriate requests risks your reputation and success.
  • Be sidetracked by budget: Offering a night in a new hotel is fantastic, but most businesses and brands don’t have that kind of carrot to dangle. Be creative. Your biggest offer could be your internal expertise, for example, so find ways to package that to the relevant media and influencers in your industry.

If you have any thoughts on earned media and using the PESO  framework let us know in the comments below, or connect with us on twitter @Ambitiouspr. We’d love to hear what you think!