Earned Media The Most Trusted Form Of Advertising

Earned media is the Holy Grail in the marketing world. It’s credible and influential. It can fuel your social media campaign, which can go viral in the digital world. In reality, earned media is a double-edged sword that some compare to surfing a tsunami—it can make you or break you.

Earned media (content), is material produced about you or your business by an unpaid third party, including mainstream news and main street bloggers. With strategic planning and opportunism, organizations can position themselves for positive media coverage. A seasoned public relations firm can help streamline the process for maximum impact. The first step is to understand the differences between earned, shared, paid, and owned media. With owned and paid media, you are in control of the content. With the others, you are counting on influence and performance.

Paid Media: As Forrester puts it, this is paid content as in an advertisement or sponsorship. Common examples of paid media include commercials, print ads, online ads, sponsored blog posts, and sponsored social media posts. Paid media is typically the least trusted form of marketing. For example, Nielsen’s Global Trust in Advertising found that half of respondents or fewer trusted ads they saw online, whether on videos, in search engine results or on social media. With paid media, you buy access in the form of social ads, PPC programs, etc. to promote your content and brand.

Owned Media: Owned media is anything that your company owns and controls.

Owned media includes your brand’s website, blog, social media profiles, catalogs, brochures and videos. Usually, paid and earned media are used to push traffic to your owned media. But, with the popularity of blogs, SEO, and content creation, it’s easier to generate web traffic organically.

You can spend a lot of time on your owned media – the content and distribution channels that you control such as your websites, white papers, newsletters, and social media campaigns. For example, if you want to share your insights on the latest trend in your industry, you write a blog post, publish it on your website, and let your followers know through your social media accounts.

Earned Media: Forrester defines earned media as “when customers become the channel.” Your brand earns media when people start talking about you (usually in a good way). According to Nielsen, earned media is the most trusted form of advertising.

The term earned media describes news content featuring or sourcing your brand, products, or services. Earned media coverage comes from media relations when a media or news outlet includes your company, product, service, expert, opinion, or ideas in a news story (online, print, radio, TV, podcast, etc.). It’s when a newspaper or industry trade publication (blog, magazine, or website) features your brand or quotes your expert. It’s appearing on a TV morning show or the evening news. It’s what most people think of when they think of PR. Some might call it “publicity.” It’s the most influential form of communications today. It’s a branding bonanza because it also positions the company as a leader and the voice of reason.

In the world of media overkill, your audiences need an effective filter or they’ll be overwhelmed. If you gain earned media, you are more likely to cut through your audience’s filters. Plus, earned media offers third-party credibility. Earned media also enables your brand to reach a wider audience – an audience that may not know about you, but can benefit from your content, products, or services. Earned media may take more work because you are not in control of the process and decision-making, but it should be a major component of your content marketing strategy. Leaders are newsmakers.

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Earned media management is a strategy based upon the concept that new campaign methodologies, standardized data and processes, and technology allow communicators and PR professionals to target influencers, distribute messages and measure the business impact those activities have on the behavior of stakeholders. Earned Media Management unlocks the full potential of opportunities by better integrating the creativity and art of the discipline, with technology and data to optimize and measure results.

All three elements, owned, earned and paid are important to a digital media strategy.

But earned media brings in the highest ROI. Earned media might be free for your brand, but it’s not necessarily free to use and it takes time to build these relationships. Measuring engagement can take time. Of course, you are able to see likes, re-Tweets, shares, etc., but tracking impressions, clicks, and other SEO driven data can take time. You’ll also have to constantly promote your content to build up your engagement, and work towards getting others to link to you. In all, you’re looking at a few weeks before you can track all metrics.

Types of Earned Media: Earned media can take several forms. Here are a few of the different types of earned media. Shared media is unpaid, user-generated content and social media. A blogger decides to review your product. When brands pay bloggers or offer products for free in exchange for reviews, that counts as a form of paid media. But if a blogger loves whatever your brand makes so much that he or she decides to write up or create a video review of it, without compensation, that’s a type of earned media.

Hiring an influencer to participate in a campaign or promote a product isn’t a type of earned media (it’s paid). But any shares, likes, comments or re-Tweets that post gets are a type of earned media. Shares and re-Tweets are ideal, since people are seeing your content and what your brand has to offer and are willing to promote it to their own friends.

Press mentions: Anytime a reporter or journalist mentions your brand in a news story, magazine article, or on TV or the radio, it’s a type of earned media.  According to Nielsen, this type of earned media (editorial content) is the third most trusted.

Organic SEO: Ranking high in search results on Google (or Bing, if your customers roll that way) is another way to earn media. For it to count as earned media, the content needs to earn that ranking organically, meaning you can’t have paid for prominent placement.

One of the main reasons why your brand should care about earned media has to do with trust. Nielsen’s study found that about 83 percent of people completely trust recommendations they get from family and friends. It’s the ultimate testimonial or endorsement.

In the age of social media, the definition of “friend” has become ever more fluid. People also trust the opinions of others online, such as reviews on blogs or Yelp, even if they don’t know those people.

Earned media has higher conversions, and ultimately, a higher return on investment. Advertising Age reported that paid media typically had conversion rates below one percent. Earned media, in contrast, often has conversion rates over five percent.

Remember, your brand doesn’t pay for earned media, which means that you are not paying to get any of the new customers or sales gained. The big drawback is that it’s the type of media your brand can’t control. When you publish content on your brand’s own website or social media profile, you have full say over what the content looks like and what it says. The same is true for paid media.

But earned media is the X factor. Sure, people might have great things to say about your brand. But there will always be those wild cards out there, such as the bloggers who give your products bad reviews, the social media user who shares your content with a disgruntled or snarky comment, or the media disasters that make your company look bad.

One way to make sure your earned media is always as positive as possible is to focus on managing and controlling the message you put out through owned and paid media channels. Offer products or services that excite people and solve problems versus those that frustrate or annoy stakeholders.

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How To Earn Media Coverage

Earned media doesn’t just happen. Your brand has must earn it. What that something is can take many forms and usually involves leveraging your company’s paid and owned media in some way.

SEO, or search engine optimization, is always evolving, because search engine algorithms are always evolving. Optimize your brand’s owned media for higher organic search results.

Influencer marketing can be earned or paid media. One goals is to have people share the content created by influencers, transforming it into earned media. Partner with influencers who have high engagement. Find ones who fit with your brand. Engage with those who care about what your company does. Excite people about your brand.

Produce content that people want to share with others. Write blog posts that offer useful tips and how-to advice, create funny videos or informative video tutorials, or create fun quizzes or polls that people can share on social media.

Interviews about your company count as earned media, but journalists are picky about who they write about, so it’s important to develop a rapport. That means more than just sending out press releases. It also means writing friendly emails and messages and going above and beyond to get a writer’s attention.

Sometimes, putting in the extra effort to get people on your team is well worth it. Keep earned media in mind when your brand is focusing on developing paid and owned media. Use these combined channels to build awareness and understanding, while overcoming potential objections.

Earned media should have an important place in your content marketing strategy. That way you’re not just hoping others will find and talk about your brand. You are deliberately and strategically taking the steps to shape the story and stakeholder engagement. Your strategies and tactics will boost your web traffic, search rankings, leads, sales, and brand equity. As you further position your organization as a leader and the voice of reason, you will earn even more media and your competitors will earn even less.

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Crossbow Communications is one of the leading public relations and public affairs firms in the United States. We have influenced public opinion and public policy around the world for more than 30 years. Today, we are tackling some of the most urgent issues of our time, including vital health and environmental challenges. We have offices in Denver, Colorado and Phoenix, Arizona.