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Earned Media and Its Role in Your Marketing Strategy

Published: February 18, 2015

Author: Lauren Roitman

So my last two blog posts have covered owned media and paid promotion, which must mean that it’s time to talk about the final strand of the trifecta: earned media.
As I’ve said before (and you’re probably sick of hearing now), a combination of owned, paid, and earned media is essential for any marketing strategy. Without owned media, you have nothing to promote or for your readership to discuss and share.

What is Earned Media?

Earned media is the third-party sentiment about your company and its services or products. It’s the media that attracts the attention of potential customers and aids in converting them into paying customers or clients and/or turning them into brand advocates. These new-brand champions then work in your favour, pushing your brand into the focus of more potential customers who then continue the recommendation circle.
Think of it as word-of-mouth marketing in the digital age.
Traditional PR used to be the main source of earned media, but when someone not associated with your brand talks about you on social media/in a forum/on their blog/in conversation, then this is earned media too.
However, earned media is rarely ever successful when conducted in isolation from the other strands of the marketing trifecta. As I’ve said before, a successful strategy requires all three elements to work in harmony.

Why Should You Be Bothered about Earned Media?

You’re creating some useful posts on your blog, your catalogues look good enough to eat, and your paid promotion is ticking along like a well-oiled machine. At this moment in time, you might be wondering why you should be bothered about maintaining your social media presence, keeping on top of your customer reviews, or monitoring brand mentions on the web. Everything’s going swimmingly, and you think spreading your team could result in a hot mess. Well, here are three great reasons you should put just as much effort into cultivating and managing your earned media as you do into paid and owned.

1.    Earned media is the most credible form of media available to you

There’s a reason that sites such as Trustpilot, Feefo, and Trip Advisor exist; people trust people, not brands. Well, at least to begin with! Put yourself in your customer’s shoes and you’ll immediately see the importance of earned media.
Think about the last time you were in need of a product or service – did you turn to the internet and plump for the unknown company that promises they’re the best at absolutely everything? Probably not.
It’s more likely that you asked your friends or family for recommendations – maybe you even made your plea for help public via Facebook or Twitter. Perhaps you had a look on Trip Advisor or Trustpilot to find real opinions and encounters, and had a snoop through their social media accounts to see how active they are and how quickly they respond to enquiries before handing over your money. Without earned media, you’d be going in blind and potentially choosing a company who would let you down.
Still think earned is unimportant?

2.    Earned equals sales

Okay, not all of the time, but without those reviews, social signals, and recommendations, how would your potential customers know they can trust you?
Trust signals play a huge part in conversion rates, and whilst earned media might not be traditional on-page trust signals such as accepted payment methods, they’re an important part of the decision making process nonetheless.

3.    Longevity

Paid media has an expiration date. Rankings come and go. Earned media is forever.
Okay, so that might be a little bit over the top, but think about it; you have a budget to spend on paid promotion – when that’s used up, the promotion ends. With more content being created than could ever possibly be consumed, it’s likely that your blog content will get lost in the noise at some point. But once customers have had a good experience with your company, and they tell their friends about it, and then the friends tell their friends about it, and then those friends tell their friends about it (you get the picture), well, word-of-mouth is priceless.
As with any part of your marketing strategy, there are downsides to earned media. Unlike owned media, which you have total control over, earned media is its own entity. Not all sentiments about your company or brand will be positive. Even if you give every single customer the best possible experience, there will still be someone that’s unsatisfied with your service; it’s just the nature of the beast.
However, that doesn’t mean that you just have to let it happen. Monitoring and responding in a timely manner can turn unsatisfied customers into brand ambassadors. For keeping atop of social media matters, I’d definitely recommend setting up a brand mention monitor using Hootsuite.
Hootsuite is one of our favourite social media tools – you can schedule posts; manage multiple accounts; assign tweets to particular team members; and that’s only the tip of the iceberg. One of the handiest features for managing your earned media is to set up a brand mention stream to keep tabs on any comments made about you – even if they don’t contain your @ username. It’s a simple as clicking “Add Stream” in the top left hand corner, selecting the “search” tab in the pop-up box, and entering your brand name in the “search query” field. You can also use modifiers in here such as the speech marks to help filter out irrelevant results.
Everyone seems to be under the impression that earned media is notoriously difficult to track the ROI of. I’m going to point you in the direction of Rodger Johnson’s article Three Ways to Measure Earned Media ROI to answer this one!

Final Thoughts on the Marketing Trifecta

I really do hope that these blog posts have helped you to understand the role of paid, owned, and earned media. Whilst earned media is a fantastic asset for conversions, marketing campaigns and brand awareness, what I really hope you take away from these posts is that in order to succeed you need to focus on creating a strategy that combines all three in harmony. Paid, owned and earned must work hand-in-hand. It essentially boils down to three steps:

-Create excellent, engaging, interesting content specifically for your customers.

-Get it in front of your target demographic with carefully planned paid promotion.

-Use this to earn your audience’s trust and convert them in to brand champions.

Every situation is different. Every brand is different. Whilst it’s not a simple as the three steps outlined above and you’ll have to go through endless testing, tweaking, and editing, stick to the above and you can be safe in the knowledge that you’re headed along the right path.

Further Reading:

Seven Questions to Ask When Planning an Earned Media Strategy, by Holly Hammond
Five Reasons You Need to Focus on Earned Media, by Rob Fuggetta
[PDF] Using Web Analytics to Measure the Impact of Earned Online Media on Business Outcomes, by Seth Duncan for the Institute of PR

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