Dear Brand Marketers, Stop Pretending Influencer Marketing = Earned Media, It’s Not.

earned media vs influencer marketing, owned media, paid media

Marketing, communication and media is becoming more and more complicated. Many marketers and business leaders are finding it difficult to learn, embrace and maximize their use of new media. They struggle with understanding the difference, value and how to best use earned media, paid media and owned media.

Many brand and digital marketers are poorly confusing influencer marketing with earned media. Some of these marketers may be making innocent mistakes. However, some very well know the difference but are pretending that they don't. As a result they are negatively impacting their brand perception and damaging relationships with the people who they claim they want to embrace and invite closer to their brand.

Yes, this is the elephant in the room for many brand marketers and the influencers, and industry thought leaders. Brands are reaching out to industry leaders begging for tweets, likes, free blog posts or even days spent at an event on behalf of the brand with zero compensation. These same brand and social, digital marketers make themselves foolishly believe they don't need to compensate the person for their time since they are bucketing the engagement into “earned media.”

I'll put this very simply for you. If you are paying for travel, accommodations, fancy dinners and entertainment it is not earned media.

Earned media is media that you earn. It's not media that you pay for. It's not dependable. It's not something you can wine and dine an influencer for and expect to get measurable results. You get what you pay for. You get what you plan for.

If you were kicking off a new event would you expect the caterer, DJ and venue to provide free service and product? Likely not. They would laugh at you if you asked. So why is it that so many brand marketers think it is alright to ask for days of time from industry leaders for free?

Learning how to integrate earned, paid and owned media is key to success for digital marketers. It is both art and science.

Relationships are everything. If you don't value the time, network, knowledge and community of the person you want to invite to your event for 3 days, why are you inviting them in the first place?

Marketers must learn to plan ahead, budget for the right media, reach and results they want to achieve. Building a digital marketing strategy and plan on the foundation that the approach is to try and get as many tweets, posts and attention as possible by wining and dining the leaders of the industry is a short lived strategy and will soon backfire as these people realize they are nothing more than a tweet and a number to you.

Take a listen to the 139th episode of the Social Zoom Factor podcast for some real talk on why brands must quit confusing earned media with influencer marketing now. I share with you a story of how one of the largest car manufacturers in the world reach out to me asking for 5 days of my time at an event without any compensation and claiming they couldn't compensate for time as it fell into the category of “earned media.” Seriously people, let's get real on this topic. It's time we make the leaders in this industry accountable. They need to walk the walk,not just talk the talk.

This episode is part of a new “in a nutshell” mini-series of the Social Zoom Factor podcast to do a deep dive on the 3 types of media you must understand if you want to be successful in the online world and with digital marketing. I provided a quick overview of paid, earned and owned media in episode 138 of the Social Zoom Factor podcast.

Be sure to subscribe to the entire series on iTunesStitcher or SoundCloud!

In this 15 minute podcast you will learn: 

  • Difference between earned media and influencer marketing
  • Why influencer marketing is not necessarily earned media
  • Importance of valuing relationships over reach, followers, Klout scores
  • Why brands must value time of influencers and thought leaders they want to work with
  • Tips to best use influencer marketing
  • The difference between paid, earned and owned media
  • How to avoid blurring earned and paid media

Supporting Resources:

Free webinars: We are also launching a series of webinars and training opportunities to dig even deeper. Sign up here-> You are the Media – Building Your Media Foundation

social_zoom_factorHow to Subscribe to Social Zoom Factor Podcast 


About the Author:

CEO / Founder Marketing Nutz, full service social media, digital marketing, experiential brand, conversion optimization agency. Ranked by Forbes as Top 10 Social Media Women and 10 Social Media Power Influencer. Keynote speaker, author, strategist, consultant, coach, & trainer. Helps businesses of all sizes integrate social media into the DNA of their business, connect with target audiences to nurture authentic customer relationships. 15+ years experience working with Fortune 500, Franchised corporations with 4000+ local franchises to entrepreneurs and startups.


  1. Michael Miller June 13, 2015 at 2:07 am

    True Pam! It’s getting harder to accommodate the demands of brands and it does seem one sided. Some bloggers seem to be afraid of their reputations if they accept paid compensation for their influence. I’m building a community to share ideas and help people, but I’m also more than willing to promote for brands. What is your take on this? Will you promote for brands if you feel the product is quality and a good fit for a specific market you serve? The other question that comes to mind is, how do you value 5 days of your time?

    • PamMktgNut June 25, 2015 at 10:19 pm

      All good questions @MichaelzMiller:disqus. I think each person must make their own decision. Much depends on where you are in your biz development. For us our business and platforms are successful. We are not desperate for attention and do not need large brand influencer parties to get visibility. They often times need our reach and traffic online more than they could ever help ours. We place a fee on our daily time based on a baseline minimal fee plus additional services offered. Depends on the brand, opportunities that are non material and how it aligns w/ our business.

      We launched our Social Zoom Factor podcast and had sponsors banging down our door from the first quarter we launched. We also take on sponsors for our tweet chats and platform as a whole across our blogs etc. We only take on brands we know and can stand behind.

      I agree it’s gotten out of hand which is exactly why I am diving in deep to this series to help educate people. We must educate the brands as well as influencers who many of them are getting taken advantage of by brands and digital marketing leaders that know better. Very disappointing to see.

  2. Frank Strong June 13, 2015 at 10:31 pm

    No issue with the purity of the distinction, but it gets blurry real quick. The dirty little earned media secret is that paid media greases the skids. This isn’t a new, even if “influencers” are newer. I had editors tel me in astonishing frankness, in the late ’90s, as the web was just picking up steam, they’d run a story if a client bought an ad. The latest word from the FTC is in my view, acknowledgement at how out of hand the practice has become.

    • PamMktgNut June 25, 2015 at 10:20 pm

      Agree on your points. It’s not new, just different medium and approaches. With social it’s also just becoming more visible.

  3. Curt Bizelli June 21, 2015 at 10:58 am

    You’re completely in the wrong Pam. Since influential blogs have popped up everywhere the media industry has changed and earned media includes YOUR BLOG whether you like it or not.

    • PamMktgNut June 25, 2015 at 10:15 pm

      Wrong @the1cbiz:disqus , sorry. Earned media is EARNEd, not forced. There will never be a piece of earned media on any one of our platforms without it being truly earned or paid media.

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