Feb 11, 2019 / in Comms Best Practices / by Maggie Latham

Over the past ten years with the rise of digital advertising, online scams have created multi-billion dollar industries. In particular, there are a large number of scams involving fake celebrity endorsements and subscription plans disguised as free trials. This issue was featured on Good Morning America as a $1.3B problem for consumers.

Due to this problem, and other similar issues that arise, the average consumer has become much more wary of advertising and business practices. It was found that 24.4 percent of U.S. internet users blocked ads on their connected devices in 2016 and this figure is projected to grow to 30.1 percent in 2018. Consumers also believe that ads are 71 percent more intrusive than they were three years ago. As paid ads continue to saturate social and other media, these percentages can only be expected to rise. But consumer concerns over advertising signal a huge opportunity for brands to pivot more towards earned media.  

How Earned Media Gains Power Over Paid

Concern about deceptive ad practices is clearly linked to paid advertising. Only 3 percent of 18-34-year-olds would consider buying something in-store due to a celebrity endorsement on social media.  A low ability to influence buying decisions is also common among mainstream paid advertising methods, with print and digital advertising only influencing around four percent of consumers aged 18-34. Brands desperately need to change this sentiment and find new ways to drive sales.

In a white paper called The Earned Media Opportunity, Cision found that in contrast with paid, audiences view earned media as the most authentic form of marketing. In addition, 73 percent of marketers say that positive earned media greatly effects customer loyalty, building awareness and sustaining brand health.

Earned Media Management Levels the Playing Field

Though consumer trust in a brand clearly results from strong earned media, money continues to be spent on paid because it is more easily measurable in the digital age. Modern communicators can adopt an Earned Media Management approach to combat this problem.

Earned Media Management is the strategic combination of technology, data, processes, and analysis designed to modernize the comms function from an expense into a business driver. Put simply, it’s a systemic approach to PR and comms job functions where earned meets the same performance benchmarks as paid. This is achieveable through new technology that analyzes customer data to help comms professionals tell the most impactful stories, engage effectively, and truly measure the impact of their efforts.

To Learn More About Earned Media Management Download The Whitepaper — Earned Media Management: The Evolution Of PR And Comms

How Applying an Influencer Graph Can Help Target the Right Influencers

One of the four tenets of Earned Media Management is the Influencer Graph, which maps the overlap between influencers, their content, and the actual audience who consumes that content. By focusing on the audience first, traditional pitch methods are altered and a new system for content customization is put into action. This means figuring out the audience first, then the influencers which best target that audience, and finally determining their most effective content.

By using the extremely specific demographics that are now available through Cision Comms Cloud™, influencers are selected by quality rather than just reach. Given that this technology and method gives comms professionals the ability to fine-tune their outreach, pitching to all kinds of media and influencers is no longer necessary. Although larger partnerships can result in greater reach, many micro-influencers have a higher saturation of audiences in-market for specific products.

Working with micro-influencers comes with many other positive advantages. For example, 74 percent of micro influencers share direct recommendations and 82 percent of consumers have a higher likelihood of acting upon recommendations from micro influencers. These stats together show that consumer’s purchase decisions are guided most frequently by micro-influencers. Yet, another reason to put more focused on earned media.

Tools and Talent

Despite all the advances in proving the power of earned media, only half of communications teams are using end-customer data. This could be in part an issue of technical tools and assets. To create an Influencer Graph and find the right influencers, a communications platform is needed which adds measurement functionalities to the media database. This includes persona documents made by collecting and combining data from different places in your organization. Tools also must categorize influencers in terms of ratings based on time and money. In the end, this technology enables the monitoring of campaigns in real time and is able to truly measure the impact of earned media efforts.  

Though technology is making large leaps forward, savvy comms professionals are needed to monitor software and sift through relevant influencer information in order for organizations to achieve the best results. When senior marcomms leaders were asked to identify the areas they need to improve upon most in terms of technology and data, “talent” was tied for the first time with “tools” as the top answer at 36 percent. This goes to show that tools need to be paired with the right talent to effectively interpret them and succeed in proving the power of earned media to executives.

Make Earned Media Management a Part of Your Marketing Mix

As scams and deceptive paid practices accelerate, Earned Media Management is rising as an authentic power for organizations. It’s time to put less emphasis on paid media and embrace the opportunities presented by earned. With the right talent, technology and workflows you can better align comms with the rest of marketing to target the right influencers, integrate campaigns and measure the true impact of your efforts.

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About Maggie Latham

Maggie Latham is an artist/designer, writer and small business owner. She has written for Cision on the topics of brand design, social media marketing and conscious business.