New Challenges with Earned Media: PR Practitioners Insight in Report

The earned media landscape is evolving.

To better understand this evolution, the Public Relations Global Network –  our network of more than 50 hand-selected public relations firms servicing key markets around the world – surveyed its 18 U.S. member firms to understand how difficult obtaining earned media has become in recent years, as well as what factors are contributing to the situation.

The insights gained for the survey provided key details on the current earned media environment, highlighting the challenges faced in national, local, and trade media.

In this blog – the first of two parts – we’ll share these findings and what implications they have for PR practitioners as we strive to secure earned media hits for our clients.

FINDING 1: It’s unanimous: PR practitioners agree that generating earned media has become significantly more difficult.

When asked whether generating earned media across three channels – local, national and trade media – had become easier, more difficult, or about the same as it was, average responses in all three media categories fell into the “more difficult” range.

Consider these comments from PRGN agency respondents:

  • “Earned media has become much more difficult, and we have to spend considerable time creating stories that are highly newsworthy. News stories that were of mild or moderate interest in the past are now very difficult to get placed.”
  • “It seems reporters are more frequently being asked to cover general assignments rather than the specialized beats we saw pre-COVID. This makes reaching the right reporter with the right story more difficult than ever. We also see lots of roles shifting within the newsroom, as well as high turnover, making it difficult to keep up.”

Key Takeaway: If they haven’t already, brands should adjust their expectations for earned media.

Those companies and agencies that engage in media relations regularly most likely have a good sense of the landscape. But for companies just embarking on media relations, we recommend they moderate their expectations and listen to counsel from skilled experienced media relations practitioners.

Finding 2: National and top-tier media have become the hardest  outlets  in which to secure earned media, followed (closely) by local and then trade.

According to respondents:

  • National / top-tier media generated an average score of -5 on the “more difficult” axis, which ranged from 0 (same) to -10 (significantly more difficult);
  • Local media was not far behind, scoring a -3 on the “more difficult” axis; and
  • Trade media was considered the least difficult medium in which to secure earned media – but it still fell into the “more difficult” category, with an average response of -1 on the “more difficult” axis.

Consider these comments about the struggle with local media coverage:

  • “Local media coverage is almost more difficult to generate than national media. It seems like journalists at local outlets are spread pretty thin and have to be more selective when it comes to choosing stories to cover. Whereas national media outlets tend to have a larger bandwidth to take on pitched topics.”
  • “When newsrooms are limited / understaffed, feature stories are not a priority. Instead, they’ll focus on crime and breaking news.”
  • “Curiously, I would say that it is almost easier to generate national media than it is to generate local media. Neither is easy, but it has gotten really tough to get local media out to cover anything these days.”

Key Takeaway: Consider packaging a complete story, making it as easy as possible for a media outlet to run it. And for local media outlets, clearly demonstrate the local impact or importance.

Respondents noted that offering thought leaders or an interview may be too ambiguous or cumbersome for reporters with limited bandwidth. Presenting a packaged story may offer an easier lift for newsrooms with limited resources. By providing everything upfront – who they can talk to, data, visuals, links to relevant content – your media pitch becomes a better olution for today’s busy reporters.

Finding 3: Coverage in trade media, which has been traditionally considered less difficult to earn, is also becoming more challenging.

According to respondent feedback, some industries are easier than others to pitch, particularly those that are more niche or are dependent on constantly changing regulations. Another trade-specific trend was these outlets increased openness to contributed articles.

Consider these comments:

  • “Huge shift to owned content – outlets are seeking guest pieces rather than setting up interviews.”
  • “We’ve noticed a lot of trades are searching for new content and gladly accept pitching content.”

Key Takeaway: Content generation has become particularly critical, especially for trade media.

Trade publications are most likely to run bylined or contributed articles and are generally more open to considering pre-written content that can be published with little or no editing, removing the burden of researching and writing from staff.

Check back towards the end of the month for the final three takeaways from PRGN Earned Media Survey. And in the meantime, keep pitching for those valuable earned media hits!

For a copy of the study results report, email us at

Note: Special thanks to our Philadelphia-based PRGN affiliate, Buchanan Public Relations, for leading this insightful study.

Author: Adriana Van Duyn

Adriana is an account supervisor at Bianchi PR with more than 18 years of B2B PR experience representing clients across the automotive, mobility and industrial sectors. She has also assisted clients on numerous PACE Award entries.

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