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If your brand isn’t prioritizing earned media strategies to meet business goals, now might be the time to reevaluate your strategy.  When combined with owned media (like blog posts or social media), and paid media (like digital advertising), earned media helps form the foundation for a holistic integrated communications strategy.   

According to Cision, 66% of marketers use earned media placements to drive their pipeline, and 50% of marketers use earned media to increase overall revenue. Despite a rise in distrust in mainstream media in recent years, earned media continues to serve an important role in successful public relations and marketing strategies by strengthening brand recognition and credibility with target audiences.  

Your earned media strategy begins with effective media relations, which can be a difficult skill to master. It's also notoriously difficult to quantify the success of earned media. Why? Because earned media is primarily about establishing brand recognition and awareness, whereas other communications pathways, like owned and paid media, historically correlate to generating and nurturing leads. However, Cision cites that 29% of marketers have expanded their use of earned media in an effort to shore up their overall demand generation.  

So, how can organizations better understand and quantify the success of their earned media programs? Here are a few ideas to communicate the value of your efforts:   

Conduct an ongoing share-of-voice analysis 

A share-of-voice (SOV) analysis provides a direct, side-by-side view of how your organization is performing in terms of earned media coverage against your top competitors.   

The idea here is that you and your competitors each have a slice of the pie, but those slices are different sizes depending on who is getting more media coverage. By conducting a SOV analysis at the beginning of a media relations campaign, you’ll see where you stack up against the competition and be able to track how your share of the pie grows over time.   

It’s best to limit a SOV analysis to your core competitors and review your competitive field on a quarterly basis. In addition to tracking growth against the competition, the best SOV analyses also uncover areas of opportunity based on what the competition is – and isn’t – doing.  

Cross-reference earned media coverage with website analytics  

Google Analytics isn’t just for digital marketers. It can offer strong insights for public relations professionals, too. Using Google Analytics to compare the publication dates of earned media coverage with website traffic can be an effective way to track the value of your efforts.  

Are there spikes in traffic the day of or the day after an earned media placement went live? If so, you may be able to credit those earned media placements with driving additional website traffic. You can also look at where that traffic is coming from to better understand whether readers clicked links within the article to access your website or a specific landing page.  

Also look for statistics around a publication’s domain authority, which predicts how well a website ranks in search engines. The higher the domain authority on a scale of 0 – 100, the more likely your media hits will rank highly in search engines.   

Don’t overlook publication reach and readership  

Some marketing and PR pros dismiss readership stats as antiquated and misleading, but they are not altogether irrelevant in quantifying the impact of earned media. Readership statistics such as distribution or Unique Visitors Per Month (UVM) can, at the very least, provide a baseline against the potential reach of your efforts.   

Another often overlooked measure of success is how the outlet relates to your overall messaging and target audiences. Sometimes you get the most value by looking beyond mainstream media: If you're in the manufacturing business and you secure an article in a manufacturing trade magazine, there's a better chance that your message is getting in front of current and future customers. Measure quality by creating a media outlet scoring system to gauge the value of your coverage.  

To further quantify your success, try layering additional readership statistics into your reporting. For example, most publications have a media kit readily available that further breaks down readership into key demographics and defined audience segments that help you understand the publication’s readership. If you’re trying to target a specific type of audience or a specific role within a company, these types of audience breakdowns can provide the insights necessary to define the value of an earned media placement in a specific publication.   

Make earned, owned and paid media work together 

Earned media can play a significant role in your marketing, lead-generation and sales efforts, but it’s just one piece of the puzzle.  

As with any marketing or communications strategy, it’s best to take an integrated approach. Your earned, owned and paid media programs should complement each other to maximize brand awareness and extend the lifecycle of your storytelling efforts.   

Looking for more information on how the right earned, owned and paid media strategies can help you achieve your PR and marketing goals in a quantifiable way? Contact us today.   

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