How CEOs Can Capture More Earned Media: 6 Proven Tactics

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You’ve been working on your brand. You create content; you write blogs and articles; you’re active on social media; you contribute thoughts and ideas to the conversation. People in your industry are starting to see you as a thought leader. This, in addition to whatever paid advertising that your company engages in. Now what?

For many, the next step is earned media. Earned media is the kind you don’t pay for or create—it’s the kind you get when a journalist with the New York Times or Forbes or Fast Company contacts you in hopes of getting a quote about a trend in your field, or even better, to interview you about your work or write a story (positive, hopefully!) about your company.

Earned media just doesn’t happen, at least not as often as most of us would probably like. The benefits of earned media are hard to overestimate, since they represent a third-party interest in you and your business. In most circumstances, earned media means instant credibility.

In this post we’re going to look at proven ways and strategies on how to get earned media. You get more flies with honey, as they say, and earned media comes to those who sweeten the pot. But first, a refresher on a couple of basic concepts.

Your brand identity

We’ve covered brand identity extensively, but in brief: a brand identity conveys who you are, the values you stand for, and the unique perspective you offer. There are several steps you can take to defining and building your brand identity.

When it comes to earned media, brand identity helps you identify the kind of earned media you want to attract by narrowing your focus to the kind of audience you want to attract and identifying the best ways to reach them.

Thought leadership

A thought leader is someone who is considered to be an authority in their industry. There are several steps you can take to become a thought leader, which we share here.

For our purposes, thought leadership means sharing insights, opinions, and predictions on relevant trends and issues. CEOs who follow this strategy almost inevitably attract attention from others in their industry, at least as long as their contributions are seen as valuable. As a thought leader’s profile rises, their opportunities for earned media increases, and the more earned media they receive, the more they are seen as a thought leader.

As a thought leader, you should be writing articles, giving interviews, and speaking at industry conferences to showcase your expertise.

Examples of earned media

Earned media is different than paid, owned, and shared media. There are several kinds of earned media, including but not limited to:

  • media coverage (mentions in newspapers, magazines, TV, radio, podcasts and other digital media)
  • review sites
  • social media mentions
  • other USG content (i.e. forum discussions like Reddit AMA)
  • influencer shoutouts
  • trade publications

PESO model of earned media diagram Proven Tactics for Attracting and Increasing Earned Media

Build relationships

As in life and business, so it is in media relations. Establishing relationships with journalists, reporters, podcasters, and bloggers who cover your industry is one of the surest ways to earn media coverage. To build relationships with media:

  1. Do your research. Find out who’s talking about the topic you’re interested in speaking on. Reach out to them by offering insights and your own personal take. Make sure you’re not covering ground that’s already been covered.
  2. Add a personal touch. Find out what you can about the journalist and other topics they write about. Perhaps there’s something else that you’re interested in that you can help with—or at least connect over. Let them know they you’ve read their work and what you liked about it.
  3. Engage on social media. Sharing and commenting on their work will get their attention and reveal yourself to be a potential source.
  4. Provide exclusive access. Media is as competitive as any other industry. Offering exclusive interviews, behind-the-scenes tours, or access to your company’s latest news and products to select media outlets are surefire ways to help forge relationships.

Comment on the latest topics

The news is the news, and journalists are always looking for sources who can comment on and add insight to the latest trends in whatever their beat is.

If, for example, you head a company that specializes in online security, then you are likely tuned to the latest developments in your field. Commenting on these topics on a regular basis—on social media or by blogging on Medium or a company blog, for example—is one way to attract earned media. If your comments are especially insightful or unique, you’ll have an even better chance of standing out. Your hot take can position you as a go-to source for media outlets seeking insights.

a padlock and laptop demonstrating internet security in a post about strategies for earned media.

Staying on top of developments in your field, such as internet security, can lead to increased earned media.

Dig deep to add to the conversation

When commenting on trends or general topics in your industry, look for the things that aren’t being said or discussed. Many people will chime in on whatever topic comes up, and usually in a predictable or self-aggrandizing way. By looking underneath the surface for angles that others aren’t discussing, you can position yourself as both a thought leader and a source for journalists looking to add to the conversation.

Sidebar: should you court controversy?

They say no publicity is bad publicity, and there’s some truth to that. Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, and a few other high-profile CEOs seem to be controversial whether they want to be or not, and it hasn’t seemed to hurt them. But for others, contributing a provocative opinion might bring earned media opportunities in the short term but detrimental fallout later.

Leverage company milestones

CEOs asking how to increase earned media need look no further than company milestones such as product launches, company expansions, new hires, new positions, revenue goals met, and partnerships. These are the kinds of hooks that, when highlighted in press releases, on company websites and blogs, and on social media, can grab the attention of journalists looking for a story.

Humanize your story

Did your first three businesses fail? Did you have to work two jobs to put yourself through school, only to find that no one was hiring? Were you living in a tumble-down shack when you hit upon the million-dollar idea that launched your business?

While working on your personal brand you probably came to recognize certain background details, events and people that make your story unique. Communicate these to your prospective media outlets. By sharing personal details like these you are more likely to attract media outlets willing to tell your story.

Sign up for media training

Not everyone is born with the gift of the gab. Maybe you’ve let your Toastmasters International membership expire. Or maybe you freeze up when put on the spot.

If you get tongue-tied at the worst possible moments, or ramble on without a filter, or have trouble articulating your message, especially in a formal setting like an interview, it may be time to invest in media training.

Often taught by former journalists, media training can help you practice your interview skills and help you avoid putting your foot in your mouth. Being able to elucidate your thoughts can make you a more appealing source for journalists.

two young women with microphones

Sign up for media training and never reveal company secrets again. Photo by George Milton at


There is no secret sauce or magic bullet for how to get media coverage.  The best methods are the good old-fashioned ones that also help build your brand and establish yourself as a thought leader—building relationships, doing research, staying on top of industry trends, and telling your story. If you are diligent and consistent in these areas, the earned media opportunities will come. Of course, the right agency can help you supercharge these efforts and help you and your company secure the earned media coverage you’re seeking.

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