As vehicles to drive traffic, lead gen, and conversion, marketers understand the value of advertising and sponsorship campaigns very well. PPC campaigns, branded content and display ads have a measurable impact that makes the media spend easy to justify. Owned media – your company social channels and subscriber lists – are also easy to measure and understand.
What’s become less clear is the way earned media can still energise and legitimise marketing messages. Even in the age of content marketing, press coverage, product reviews, social shares and guest blogs have promotional power.
Let’s take a look at why.
What do we mean by ‘earned’ media?
Earned media is achieved by offering high-value content to third parties like journalists, bloggers, social media influencers, and customers. It also refers to word of mouth and the (hopefully positive) things customers say about you online.
It could be an opinion piece in a trade publication or a market conversation about your brand that has been posted or published by third parties. In that sense its publicity you earn rather than purchase.
That means it’s not something you have full control over, or necessarily even create.
In some cases, the media you earn isn’t all that positive – think customer complaints that leak onto social or a reader comment under an opinion piece or guest blog that’s less than complimentary.
So earning media also means monitoring it, to know what’s being written and said about you to protect brand reputation.
What types of content can be earned?
- Press coverage
- Product reviews
- Guest blogs
- Social media mentions and shares
- User-generated content (UGC)
Why is earned media important?
I know what you’re thinking: ‘I’m paying loads for ad campaigns and populating my own channels with content. Why do I need more?’
Because earned media has a secret sauce, and it’s called ‘legitimacy.’
People buy from brands they trust. And people are more likely to trust what the people in their own personal networks say about a company than marketing claims.
Research shows that more than 90 per cent of consumers trust earned media more than overtly promotional content. Gaining consumer trust is the one reason you need an earned media strategy.
How to get started
To integrate earned media into your marketing plan, follow these six essential steps.
1. Be clear on what you want earned media to do?
Earned media can help you:
- Boost the impact of a campaign or product launch
- Grow an influencer network
- Drive more traffic to your website
- Increase conversions
2. Share content your audience cares about
If your content sounds like a sales pitch, chances are it will be ignored. Useful content that is relevant to readers’ lives will help you earn reviews, shares, comments and recommendations.
3. Analyse the numbers
Social media dashboards like Hootsuite can show you which content connects with your audiences. Google Analytics will crunch the numbers around web traffic and show you where most engagement is happening (and not happening).
4. Raise your content marketing game
Content creation, especially blogging, is a super-effective SEO tactic. Hubspot says that businesses posting 15 more blogs per month get more than triple the traffic of those that post four times or less.
5. Locate and monitor your influencers
Use a media monitoring tool to find fans and happy customers who are saying nice things about you. Reach out to them and engage. You’re not paying for earned influence, so demonstrate your appreciation by bigging them up with shares, comments, and shout outs on social.
6. Squeeze every drop of value from earned media
Once you’ve earned it, share it forward on your social pages or use real-life testimonials in paid media. It adds credibility and trust to promotional content.
Earned media is technically ‘free’, but it takes time and resources to win it. You’ll need to invest person-hours in content and outreach to get out the word. Measuring the impact on traffic, shares, followers, downloads, newsletter signups and sales – will help you capture what worked and what didn’t.
Measuring results may also indicate you need to change tack and rethink the types of content you share.
Measuring the reach (impressions) of content is one valuable metric, but don’t stop there. It’s even more critical to understanding the demographics of your audience, how they engaged with content, and what actions they took next.
Other important metrics include:
- Brand mentions
- Share-of-voice around particular topics or industry conversations
- Sentiment (are mentions of the brand couched in positive or negative terms)
Hopefully, we’ve given you some ideas to get your earned media plan off the ground. Original, compelling content and outreach to the people you need to engage with should be next on your list.