Earned media usually lives up to its name. You have to earn - or work for - media coverage instead of paying for it.
Paid media is just what it says: you pay for whatever media exposure you receive. This is typically paid advertising -- online or print ads, TV commercials, etc.
With earned media, you don't pay a dime. In a sense, it's free. But you pay for it in sweat equity.
Trying to earn media coverage is no easy task. After all, you have to persuade the media to see your story or event as newsworthy. You then have to trust that reporters will be fair in their treatment of your story or organization. Nothing is guaranteed.
But there are definitely advantages of earned media that are worth considering when you're looking to tell your story.
Tough questions from the media need to be addressed and need to be answered. It rarely helps to be seen as someone who can't give a direct answer. But there are some questions that probably shouldn't be answered, because of the way they're asked.
If you get a question from a reporter that presupposes a certain point of view that you feel is incorrect or inappropriate, than you need to clarify that right up front. We teach our clients to rephrase the question.