How consumers and decision makers get their information has changed dramatically in the last 30 years. Paid media—advertising and advertorials, sponsored social media posts and blogs, paid social media influencers, and other branded content created by a company—allow marketers to engage consumers with their brands in many ways.
But earned media or earned content—i.e., any material written about your company, brand, service or product that you haven’t paid for or created yourself (think publicity)—is an important element of any marketing program. Some would suggest earned placement is even more important and influential than ever before.
Examples of earned media include a television news segment, radio interview, newspaper story, bylined article in a trade publication, product roundup or even, I would venture, a customer review. Each can play a key role in raising your brand awareness and motivating a customer or client to take the next step, whether that is making an inquiry to your company, purchasing your product or engaging your service. Here’s why:
Established publishers have the built-in reach and engaged audiences that branded content just doesn’t offer.
Furthermore, awareness of “fake news” has dramatically impacted how people perceive what they read and see. Consumers are more skeptical of what they read on social media platforms, but trusted and established news organizations are still the go-to for solid reporting and reliable information.
There is no doubt that coverage by such media heavyweights as NPR, CNBC, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Fortune, industry trade publications, or your local daily newspaper or business magazine still carries meaningful weight and cache – and essentially, provides an invaluable third-party endorsement. They are seen as trustworthy sources for information. After more than three decades of public relations practice, the first thing clients often still ask us about is whether we can secure coverage in some of these high-profile publications. In an era of skeptics and shoddy sources, that means something.
Earned media in the digital age
Earned media has a longer shelf life than paid media. Today, those third-party stories live online and remain searchable (often, forever) at a publication’s website or on social media, which can then be shared by site visitors.
Regarding where social media fits into the PR puzzle, for one thing, it gives your earned media more “oomph” than was available before LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook existed; it’s a channel that enables PR practitioners and marketers to generate even greater visibility for the earned media/news coverage they secure for a client. We can now share links to articles, TV segments and radio interviews that run in “traditional” media outlets that are now posted on the media outlets’ own websites. This not only creates even greater exposure for your brand, but can boost your website’s organic SEO if there are links to your site included in the story.
The consensus is that conversion rates (percentage of users/visitors/readers who take a desired action such as engage a service, register for an event or buy a product) are higher with earned media compared to traditional paid media. That translates to better ROI, plain and simple.
All that said, earned media is not free. There’s no such thing as “free” publicity. The road to building a successful brand requires an expenditure of human and capital resources. Since it is not a paid ad or sponsored content that guarantees placement in print, broadcast or online, earned media means your brand, services and products must speak for themselves.
If you want to discuss how we can generate earned media attention for your brand as a key element in your marketing mix, we’d love to hear your story. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.