How earned media’s value is shifting

The changes that have rocked traditional media have caused some to reevaluate the importance of earned media placements. Here’s why you shouldn’t abandon the tactic.

There is immense value in PR, no matter how many “experts” claim PR is dead.

Brand managers, marketers and even PR professionals overseeing paid content campaigns have become very well versed with all the types of new software that can provide real-time measurement of the impact content is having on consumers from their initial engagement with the content to where they go after to what they end up purchasing.

PR pros should bring these sophisticated ideas to their more traditional earned media campaigns. After all, the most basic definition of PR is influencing people through content.

Now PR pros can have real-time answers to all sorts of questions and can tweak campaigns while they’re just getting off the ground. Is the video being viewed to the very end? Did it lead to a website visit? How did a consumer’s attitude towards a brand change?

New business models

New business models are often a bridge to far for PR agencies. Measuring anything in real-time often flies in the face of setting somewhat arbitrary—and often costly—monthly retainers.

It might be time to take change more seriously. As the CEO of Edelman says in an article on their advertising campaign promoting Edelman’s expanding integrated creative, paid and consulting expertise, PR pros “have a business model problem.” Namely, too many PR practitioners pitching to too few journalists. (PR professionals outnumber journalists 5-to-1 in 2018).

This is leading agencies like Edelman to become more holistic content creators who work with a brand’s internal content team to time, scale and distribute branded content creation.

Unless you are The Coca-Cola Company, your owned and branded content will struggle to attract viewers without promotion. In fact, a recent study by researchers using Ahrefs’ SEO tool found that 90 percent of organic content receives no search traffic from Google. Branded content just doesn’t have the built-in reach and engaged audience of established publishers.

To boost your reach, you can tie your branded content strategy into your PR strategy. Rather than simply trying to create a trend story that a client can pitch to a journalist, integrated teams can create brand driven digital trends with creative assets.

A strong example of this tactic is Intel. Luke Kintigh, the head of Intel’s very well received Intel IQ, explained how their branded content team can often work in harmony with their PR team.

“Our Intel IQ video can serve as a B-Roll-like supplement for our PR team to entice journalists and gauge if there is media interest,” he says. “In addition, our integrated team can also pick and choose where we want to amplify an Intel relevant storyline through branded content or earned content, or sometimes, both.”

Top media outlets earn trust

In addition to earned media offering reach, it also boosts consumer trust.

Fake news is a big deal. The recent Cision State of the Media Report found that 59 percent of U.S. consumers said fake news is making them more skeptical of what they read and see. It’s even worse on social media according to Edelman’s Trust Barometer, which found only 30 percent of Americans trust what they see on social platforms.

This doesn’t mean consumers eyes glaze over when they see a news story from a trusted news source—quite the opposite. Consumers are moving to media channels they trust. A report from the comScore at the end of last year found data that points to information consumption shifting from BuzzFeed back to traditional news organizations such as The New York Times and The Washington Post.

Earned media placement on trusted outlets can validate your owned content and give your brand third-party credibility. With each additional mention in the press, your credibility increases. For instance, a past study by Ogilvy found that journalists agree (65 percent) that the more the media covers a brand, the more credible the brand appears.

The true value of earned media

Merely increasing your digital or traditional advertising budget without an eye towards incorporating earned media can be costly and ineffective.

While traditional paid advertising may drive clicks and short-term views, past research from Forrester has found that 88 percent of consumers say direct advertisements have little or no influence on their actual purchasing decisions.

A recent Northeastern study found that on average, increasing a brand’s social media output of owned media by 10 percent saw a 7 percent increase in brand awareness, a 4 percent increase in customer satisfaction, but only a 3 percent decrease in purchase intent. The same percentage increase in earned social media output led to significant increases across all three categories.

Edward Kim is the founder of Simple Reach .

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