While the growth of digital advertising over the past 10 years has been largely beneficial, it has had its negative side effects as well, most notably the rise of online scams. Fake celebrity endorsements and subscription plans disguised as free trials reportedly cost consumers $1.3 billion.
Not surprisingly, consumers are increasingly wary of advertising and business practices. Nearly a quarter (24.4%) of U.S. internet users blocked ads on their connected devices in 2016. Consumers also believe that ads are 71% more intrusive than they were three years ago. As paid ads continue to saturate social and other media, these percentages are expected to rise.
New warning about fake celebrity endorsements. Report says misleading ads have cost consumers $1.3 billion. Even our own GMA family is being impersonated. GoodMorningAmerica.com
Posted by Good Morning America on Wednesday, December 12, 2018
However, consumer concerns over advertising, which are clearly linked to paid media, signal a huge opportunity for brands to pivot more toward earned media.
For example, only 3% of 18- to 34-year-olds would consider buying something in-store because of a celebrity endorsement on social media, while only 4% of people in that demographic are influenced by print and digital advertising.
In “The Earned Media Opportunity” white paper, Cision found that audiences view earned media as the most authentic form of marketing. In addition, 73% of marketers say positive earned media greatly impacts customer loyalty, building brand awareness, and sustaining brand health.
Leveling the playing field
Though strong earned media results in consumer trust, paid continues to draw revenue because it is measurable. We can adopt an earned media management approach to combat this problem.
Earned media management strategically combines technology, data, processes, and analysis to transform the comms function from an expense to a business driver. Simply put, it’s a systemic approach to PR and comms job functions, in which earned meets the same performance benchmarks as paid. This is achievable through new technology that analyzes customer data to help us tell the most impactful stories, engage effectively, and truly measure the impact of our efforts.
Targeting the right influencers
One of the four tenets of earned media management is the influencer graph, which maps the overlap between influencers, their content, and the audience that consumes their content. By focusing on audience first, we upend traditional pitch methods and put into action a new system for content customization. This requires first deciding who our audience will be, then identifying the influencers that best target that audience, and, finally, determining the most effective content for both.
By using the detailed demographics available through Cision Comms Cloud, influencers are selected by quality rather than just reach. Given that this technology and method give us the ability to fine-tune our outreach, we no longer need to pitch to all kinds of media and influencers. Although larger partnerships can result in greater reach, many micro-influencers have a higher saturation of audiences in-market for specific products.
Working with micro-influencers comes with many other positive advantages. For example, 74% of micro-influencers share direct recommendations, and 82% of consumers have a higher likelihood of acting on recommendations from micro-influencers. These stats show that consumers’ purchase decisions can be guided by micro-influencers.
Tools and talent
Despite all the advances in proving the power of earned media, only half of communications teams use end-customer data. This could partly be due to access to technical tools and assets. To create an influencer graph and find the right influencers, you need a communications platform that adds measurement functionalities to the media database. This includes persona documents made by collecting and combining data from different places in the organization and influencer categories determined by ratings based on time and money. In the end, this technology enables us to monitor campaigns in real time and truly measure the impact of earned media to executives.
As scams and deceptive paid practices accelerate, earned media management is rising as an authentic power for organizations. It’s time we put less emphasis on paid media and embrace the opportunities presented by earned. With the right talent, technology, and workflows, we can better align comms with the rest of marketing to target the right influencers, integrate campaigns, and measure the true impact of our efforts.
Download the Earned Media Management: The Evolution of PR and Comms white paper.