PR and Communications

Is PR Just About Earned Media?

Earned media – unpaid coverage/mention of a thought-leader, brand or an organization by a media outlet or influencer – is the primary goal of most business leaders that invest in Public Relations (PR). But is that the primary purpose of PR? Are there other objectives or is pursing those just a distraction?

We posed this question to several PR experts in the HITMC Community and compiled the best responses. Here’s what they said:

  • PR is about consistent messaging too – Tom Keppeler
  • PR must present relevant thought leadership across multiple formats – Beth Friedman
  • It’s all about earned media – Scott Collins
  • PR professionals can contribute to earned, owned and paid media – Regan Wynne
  • Reputation & crisis management are important PR functions too – Christine Slocumb
  • PR is telling authentic stories across multiple mediums – Tania (DiVito) Rai
  • Posting your own stories on LinkedIn is also a PR function – Nicole Brooks
  • PR is about making connections, building relationships & telling stories – Chintan Shah

Tom Keppeler, Director of Communications at InterSystems

It’s time to sharpen that outlook – the “only earned media” perspective couldn’t be less true today. The modern era of communications involves consistent messaging across all available channels – whether it be what you say to the media, how your executives address an audience, what you say to your followers on social, how you message to analysts, how you tell your story visually through video and infographics, and how the company handles itself in times of crisis. Not everyone has to be a generalist with advanced skills in all of these; however, understanding how your domain fits into the larger whole is an absolute must.

Beth Friedman, Founder & CEO at Agency Ten22

In our experience, healthcare buyers reach out to prospective new health IT technology, consulting or service companies after three touchpoints. Each of these touchpoints is important and plays an essential role in lead generation and finding new customers. So it isn’t just about earned media.

Strong public relations must present relevant thought leadership across multiple formats including earned media, paid content and peer-to-peer recommendations.

Scott Collins, President & CEO of Aria Marketing

I’d agree. Look, there are lots of ways to get your message out but all of the best ones you have to earn, and there is a reason for that: earned is credible and unearned is not.  Even with social media, you can promote tweets and pay influencers or whatever you want to do, but if you haven’t done the foundational work to build a brand and a voice people believe then its largely a wasted effort.

Regan Wynne, Sr Director of Brand Marketing & Communications at TigerConnect

If you think of PR as a standalone discipline, then that’s exactly where the conversation typically goes. And if this was 20 years ago, maybe you’d be right. However, if you think of your Earned strategy as part of your overall Integrated Marketing strategy—right along with Paid, Owned, and Shared—then the conversation is much different. Paid and shared media feed the top of the funnel but Google ad words and social posts don’t typically convince prospects to make a purchasing decision. And while earned media establishes credibility, PR and communications professionals can greatly contribute to Owned media through customer testimonials and thought leadership pieces that play a much bigger part in moving prospects through the funnel, especially in a multi-touch attribution model with buyer units comprised of multiple personas. Credibility and recognizability are immensely important in establishing the trust needed to help you win deals.

Christine Slocumb, President at Clarity Quest Marketing

Think about the last car you bought. Now, think about all the places you heard about that car before you bought it – from your friends, at a car show, at an event, on social media, on a website, on a blog, in an ad, and of course, in earned media.

Consumers, whether in healthcare, B2B, or consumer markets are skeptics. We require additional evidence before accepting claims as true. We weigh information according to evidence delivered through communication across different channels, including but not limited to earned media.

Reputation and crisis management can be vital parts of an integrated PR effort.

It’s the combination of information from a variety of different sources, consistent messages over time, and the customer experience they create that motivates action, or in the case of your car, a purchase.

Tania (DiVito) Rai, Corporate Communications Manager at PointClickCare

When people think of PR they think of media relations only, but it’s so much more than that. The world of PR is changing all the time and it’s changed so much since I began my career 10 years ago. PR professionals are communicators and storytellers and it’s our job to leverage different channels to tell our story – be that through paid, earned, social or owned channels. If you think of everything other than earned media as a distraction, you’re really doing yourself and your career a disservice.

Nicole Brooks, PR Consultant & Vice President at Innsena Communications

While earned media is important, even more important is making sure your message is consistent and saturated across multiple channels. One can be just as impactful by writing a LinkedIn post that echoes your thought leadership perspective reflected in a bylined article that also harkens back to your company value proposition included on your website copy.

Chintan Shah, Principal at KNB Communications

Public relations is about making connections, building relationships and ultimately telling stories. Visibility can certainly be achieved through earned media, which yields a high level of credibility. However, PR can come in other forms as well–including paid, owned and shared content. A good PR strategy considers all of these channels and builds a story that incorporates the audiences and communications styles that best resonate.

About the author


Colin Hung

Colin Hung is an award-winning Marketing Executive with more than 15yrs of healthcare and HealthIT experience. He co-founded one of the most popular healthcare chats on Twitter, #hcldr and he has been recognized as one of the “Top 50 Healthcare IT Influencers”. Colin’s work has been published in the Journal of the American College of Radiology, American Society for Healthcare Risk Managers, and Infection Control Today. He writes regularly for Healthcare Scene and here at Colin is a member of #pinksock #TheWalkingGallery and is proudly HITMC. His Twitter handle is: @Colin_Hung.

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The Healthcare and IT Marketing Community (HITMC) is an extension of the HITMC conference that is the first of its kind event that brings together marketing and PR professionals from throughout the health care community. We strive to provide amazing marketing and PR related content that helps HealthIT companies and healthcare organizations  stand out amidst all the noise of the industry. If you’re looking to market to hospital executives, doctors, practice managers, patients, or other healthcare professionals, you’ve come to the right place. Welcome to the HITMC community!