Whether it be a focus on mobile and e-commerce experiences, or more investment in search and display advertising, earned media has often been third in line in the overall marketing mix.
But as consumers become fatigued with advertising and brands discover massive areas of waste in their media spend, comms teams are taking a fresh look at earned media.
Digital platforms have helped expand the role advertising plays in the average consumer’s life. From banner ads to pay-per-click ads and native advertising, all served as successful means for brands to get in front of consumers.
But knee-deep into the age of the customer, this type of advertising has become less effective. Publishers are struggling to provide value to the advertisers who have invested with them and advertising spend has become a black hole with questionable return on investment.
James McQuivey of Forrester, a recent participant in a Cision webinar on earned media, calls this phenomenon the “end of advertising as we know it.”
Consumers are ad-weary. In fact, 38% of U.S. adults have installed ad-blocking software on their computers, which means advertisers reach 38% fewer consumers than they once could.
Earned media is a viable solution to the ad-weary consumer, offering brands the opportunity to connect with consumers. But it is often overlooked as a solution, as many marketers and comms pros believe scaling efforts or measuring results are too complicated.
And while that may have been the case, today that’s no longer true. There are now tools available to measure earned media, from awareness to shopping cart conversions.
The current state
At the heart of earned media is authentic content, which dovetails well with want consumers want. As people consume articles, blog posts, and videos, not all sources are created equal. In general, they trust people more who are not in the employ of the brand. When a well-respected journalist or blogger writes about a brand, that single article has the potential to reach thousands of potential customers.
And while it can help drive transactional revenue quickly, advertising cannot compete with that level of trust. Only 47% of people trust the ads that appear alongside search results, compared to the 67% that trust online reviews. Consumer trust is shifting.
To get the most from an earned media campaign, the first place to start is with the campaign’s desired goals or results
Chris Lynch, Cision
There’s still more to do in terms of fully harnessing the power of earned media. Today, 70% of marketers say they don’t have enough data and analytics, or don’t know where to find them, to determine how their earned media programs impact financial and business results.
Three-fourths of comms professionals admit they need to do better at measuring and proving the impact earned media has on business objectives.
The gap still needs to shrink between engagement and outcomes, but the technology and tools to do that, as well as to tie earned media directly to revenue growth, leads generated, and shopping cart conversions, now exist.
To get the most from an earned media campaign, the first place to start is with the campaign’s desired goals or results. Typical goals include driving traffic, shopping cart conversions, and moving visitors in the lead funnel.
Next, develop a strategy for what will be measured in terms of earned media. Organic, amplified, and placed earned media may all have different values for a brand, so determine which is the most important.
Additional metrics to measure include engagement, reach, audience insights, and conversion. Make sure to have benchmarks for each of these metrics.
A rising star
The majority of senior marketers (81%) believe earned media has more of a positive impact than paid media. That number will likely increase as brands learn to leverage metrics that prove earned media’s business value.
The fact that consumers want third-party validation and content that suits their purposes has triggered the “earned renaissance.” Earned media is trusted by consumers, can produce higher engagement and shares, and offers credibility and product validation.
Through earned media, brands can tell human stories that audiences relate to, while tracking their sentiment and reaction to those stories.
Chris Lynch is CMO of Cision. Looking for more information? Download Cision’s recent webinar: The Rise of Earned Media: Quantifying Comms and PR Value.