Kristi Piehl is an Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) member from Minnesota and founder and CEO of Media Minefield, a news-driven public relations agency specializing in earned media. We asked Kristi about the benefits of earned media for businesses. Here's what she shared.

Earned media is a powerful strategy in your publicity toolkit that can be utilized to help your company achieve its marketing, branding and revenue goals.

Before we dig into how earned media can benefit your business, let's make sure we are on the same page about what earned media is. It is publicity received based on the newsworthiness of the content or the expertise of the person being interviewed. Essentially, it is media that is not purchased; it's free exposure for you, your company and your brand.

I spent more than a decade in television news as an anchor and reporter. During that time, I frequently saw businesses disregard amazing earned media opportunities, likely because they had no idea what benefits they were missing out on!

Interested in learning how earned media can positively impact your business? Let's examine the benefits along with real-world examples from my experience in guiding clients toward best practices for earned media.

Jumpstart Awareness

Earned media interviews provide you with the opportunity to bring your message to the local community or to outlets your target audience is watching, reading or listening to. After completing a successful live television interview, one of our clients quickly realized how impactful his appearance was: He was approached in the parking lot of his office as he returned from the studio by a woman who had seen his interview on TV and was interested in becoming a client! Though it's not always as instantly gratifying as that prime example, earned media enhances visibility and increases traction, leading to elevated awareness of you and your business.

Heighten Credibility

You have the chance to showcase expertise and highlight your brand in exactly the way you choose during an earned media interview. When viewers watch their favorite reporter interview someone or read an interesting article about them in a respected publication, that someone's credibility rises through association with such favored media outlets. One of our clients had been working tirelessly to land a big business deal when an interview opportunity arose. After seeing the television interview, the customer called him about the deal.

Manage Messaging

Earned media provides the ideal opportunity to define who you are, what you offer and how that differentiates you from competitors in your space. Consistent messaging builds trust and loyalty with potential clients or customers. We recently helped a retail store with multiple locations across the country announce its name change. By providing consistent messaging in earned media across a variety of outlets, customers more easily grasped the reasoning behind the name change. This helped to ensure current customer continuity while giving the brand a fresh start to attract new customers.

However, without carefully crafted messaging, this is dangerous territory: A negative interview can be damaging to your brand. Why do you think I named my company Media Minefield? It's important to know your message thoroughly and practice answering questions in advance before a live interview. Many public relations agencies offer media training, which can be beneficial for conquering interview anxiety. Such training can also help you master techniques to mention your company effectively and tout its benefits without coming across like a bad, late-night infomercial.

Expand Reach

Earned media, whether it's radio, television, magazines, newspapers or online, gives businesses the opportunity to expand their reach to a variety of audiences. Even better, an earned placement gets a second life when it's shared on social media, and often reaches an entirely new audience. A recent interview with one of our restaurant clients was posted on Facebook by the TV station and within 24 hours, garnered more than 37,000 views. Not surprisingly, the following day, the client's restaurant had a line around the block!

Impart Value

In business, we always want to calculate ROI. An earned media investment with a public relations firm is no different. Before signing on, make sure you will receive publicity and valuation reports that include viewership numbers, circulation and unique visitors per month, as well as a valuation of the media impressions you're receiving as determined by an unbiased third party. This information will confirm whether the value you're receiving is worth the investment.