Does earned media still have a place in the digital marketing mix?

Does earned media still have a place in the digital marketing mix?

Have you ever heard of the term earned media? Everyone gets the value of having your own media channels. From blogs to social media accounts and newsletter subscriber lists, owned media is easy to measure and manage.

The same holds true for advertising. Purchased media like PPC campaigns, branded content and display ads can have a measurable impact that supports the case for marketing budget.

What’s fuzzier is how earned media adds value to today’s digital marketing mix.  Can product reviews, social shares, press coverage and guest blogs still deliver results? 

The answer is definitely yes. Let’s look at why.

What is ‘earned’ media exactly?

Earned media is what you get when content you’ve sent to influential third parties like journalists, bloggers, customers, and social media stars, is published on their channels – for free. 

It can also extend to positive informal conversations customers have about your brand, both offline and on – ‘word of mouth’ (in other words).

Perhaps you’ve provided comment for an upcoming feature article that the journalist has published, or posted something on social that’s been shared organically by followers. In both cases, the exposure gained has been earned thanks to the quality of the content, rather than purchased based on the size of your budget. 

In some cases, earned media doesn’t emerge from something you’ve created. It can also be negative, like customer complaints on social or critical comments on a blog post. 

So to get value out of earned media, you also have to track it. It’s essential to understand the sentiment of content and know what people are saying about you – even when unprompted.

Is earned media worth the risk?

Despite the potential downsides, earned media still offers something vital that other media types struggle with: trust and legitimacy. 

Customers don’t buy from companies they don’t trust. And information that comes via their personal networks holds a lot more sway than mere marketing claims. 

Consumers tell pollsters again and again that they believe earned media more than adverts. In a time when potential buyers are prioritizing trust more than ever before, earned media has to have a prominent place in your marketing strategy.

How to get started

To build earned media into your marketing plan, start with these four steps:

Create content that resonates with your audiences

If something reads like a sales brochure, its likely to be skimmed over or ignored altogether. Writing content that gives readers something they can use straightaway or helps them solve a problem will help drive reviews, recommendations, and shares. 

Increase quantity, but don’t forget quality

Content development and blogging, in particular, is hugely effective for SEO. Blogs are filling in the gap left behind as traditional journalism retreats into infotainment. Businesses posting 12 or more blogs each month pull triple the traffic of those that publish five times or less.

Know and reward your fans

Monitor media to locate happy customers who are saying good things about you, then engage. Reach out and demonstrate your appreciation by amplifying their social presence with a shout out and re-share. You might also consider giving them a special discount to say ‘thanks’.

Establish metrics and measure

Even though earned media is free, it takes budget and resource to secure it.  You’ll need hours and people to create content and promote it via channels like PR, email, app notifications, and social. 

Capturing the impact of any earned placement or five-star review on traffic, shares, sales, conversions, downloads, or newsletter will show you what worked (and what didn’t). 

But don’t stop there. Earned media can also help you build a more granular picture of customer behaviour, showing you how they engaged with content, and what actions they took after seeing it.

If earned media isn’t delivering, don’t give up on it straightaway. Like any channel strategy, it may need a rethink or new types of content.

Earned, paid or owned, every channel strategy takes time to get off the ground. If you focus on creating unique, compelling content tuned to the needs and interests of target customers, you’ll be well on your way to success.