Somewhere throughout your career you’ve probably heard the saying “content is king.” While this is true in some regards, it does not paint the entire picture. If you’ve been diligently crafting content for your website after taking this saying to heart and still wondering why you aren’t budging in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages), it may be time to rethink your earned media strategy and reassess how it fits into your overall marketing plan.

What is earned media?

Earned media is defined as any publicity or media that is not generated by your company or agents of your company, but rather by organic methods via customers, social media fans, journalists or bloggers. It’s any publicity that you have not commissioned or paid for, is created by a third party and is not published on a site that you own. Some examples of earned media are:

  • Customer reviews and testimonials
  • Mentions on any social media platforms
  • Word-of-mouth recommendations both in person and digital
  • Shares/retweets of your content or any content about your brand or business
  • Blog posts about your business or product
  • Magazine and newspaper articles
earned media strategy graph

Image Credit: Titan SEO

What’s the value of earn media?

Gone are the days of people sharing the good, bad and the ugly of a business around the water cooler at work. The rise of social media and platforms like Yelp have made it possible for people around the world to voice their opinion about specific businesses or products to a huge audience, and that audience is listening. Consumers are researching products and services now more than ever, and this research has a significant influence on their buying decisions. A study by inPowered and Nielsen found the following:

  • 85% of consumers regularly or occasionally seek trusted expert content—credible, third-party articles and reviews—when considering a purchase.
  • 67% of consumers agree an endorsement from an unbiased expert makes them more likely to consider purchasing.
  • 69% of consumers like to read product reviews written by trusted experts before making a purchase.

The above research highlights the importance of earned media and the perception and credibility of unbiased third-party content. Earned media’s value is worth its weight in gold. It’s by far the best kind of PR your business can receive and can mean the difference between a consumer buying from you or your competitor.

Earned media value through SEO

There are also secondary benefits of earned media in the form of SEO. Google loves fresh content. They’ve even told us when releasing their “Google Freshness Update,” which uses a “freshness” score to influence where you show up in the search engine results page. Earned media can be a great source of fresh, recurring content about your product or service. It can also help you earn higher quality backlinks (sites with high domain authority, page authority, page rank), which strengthens off-page SEO signals and can help you rank higher.

For example, let’s say your company is about to launch a new product. You write about the launch on your blog and share your blog post on social media where it’s shared and retweeted by your loyal fans. Not only is every share and retweet considered a piece of “fresh” earned media, but it also increases the chance that news of your launch will land in front of other bloggers, authors or journalists. If your launch is something that is of interest to them, they may themselves write about it on their blog or website and link back to you. If these new links are coming from sites that have a high DA and PA, it can work wonders on moving your website up in the SERPs.

The search engines can see when the article gets published, and once indexed, it can factor into how Bambu’s position in the SERPs is calculated.

Wait, can’t I Just pay for that?

The short answer here is no. While they do have some overlap, paid media and earned media are two separate entities. Like its name implies, paid media is media is defined as media that you’ve paid for. It can be anything from newspaper ads, sponsored tweets, an AdWords PPC campaign or a Facebook sponsored story. Paid media is a very effective catalyst to earned media, and should play a part in your overall convergent media marketing strategy.

Step-by-step earned media strategy

While every earned media strategy will vary from industry to industry, they all are similar in terms of the foundation of the strategy itself. Here are some steps to help you create a unique earned media strategy that is right for your business.

  1. Clearly define your objectives.

    What’s the goal of your strategy? Are you trying to gain exposure for a new product launch? Are you trying to drive traffic to your website? Figure out what it is you want to accomplish with your earned media push. Understanding the underlying goal can be extremely beneficial in hashing out the overall look and feel of the campaign and will allow you to better identify and measure your KPIs.

  2. Identify your target demographic.

    Before you say, “I want to target everyone,” really take some time to create your “buyer personas.” You want to narrow your demographic down to the type of people that your content is suited best for. It’s all about getting the right message in front of the right people at the right time. Every piece of content you produce will resonate differently between groups of individuals. Understanding who those individuals are makes for successful campaigns in comparison to those who are targeting to the masses.

  3. Figure out what types of content your audience wants to see.

    Now that you’ve identified your target demographic, you need to figure out what types of content they want to consume. This can easily be achieved by figuring out what 3rd-party media sites your demographic visits, and analyzing top-performing content on them. You can also use a tool like BuzzSumo to identify top-performing content based on specific topics or keywords. Use your research to craft content that bridges the gap between what you do and what your audience cares about.

  4. Form a solid distribution strategy.

    There are countless amazing pieces of content on the Web that no one reads. This usually happens due to the lack of a distribution strategy. Every business already has an effective but seldom used distribution network: their employees. Earned media and employee advocacy programs go hand in hand. Cumulatively, your employees have a larger digital footprint than your business alone, so why not use them to your advantage? Your employees are a low cost distribution network, and by utilizing an employee advocacy platform like Bambu, you can effectively push new content to staff members who can easily re-share with their own social media networks. Involving your employees is one of the most cost-effective ways to distribute your content. The money saved by utilizing your employees can then be appropriated into your paid media strategy through Facebook ads, sponsored tweets, or promoted stories.

    bambu by sprout social dashboard screenshot

    In addition to your employees, you should also utilize influencers to spread your message. Influencer marketing is one of the fastest growing and most effective online acquisition channel. It’s been found that 92% of consumers turn to people they know for referrals above any other source. Identify the major influencers in your industry and utilize them to help get your content in front of a large, targeted audience who trusts and takes advice from them on products or services that they vouch for.

  5. Measure your efforts.

    Tracking success with earned media can sometimes be difficult depending on the goals you set in step one. A few metrics you could be tracking are: number of mentions in relation to a specific piece of content, number of backlinks gained, the number of unique visits to promoted content vs. non-promoted content or number of social shares. Measuring your efforts will allow you to gauge the success of your efforts and allow you to fine tune your strategy<./li>

Methods of acquiring earned media

Now that you have a solid grasp of what your strategy should look like, we wanted to tell you about straightforward methods of acquiring earned media.

  1. Reach out to reporters or journalists.

    Previously, finding the contact information of individual reporters at different media sources could prove elusive. Luckily, services like HARO (Help a Reporter Out) exist for the sole purpose of connecting the journalists with sources. Another great method to identify journalists is through a simple Twitter search. Tag journalists on your tweets while using hashtags like #PRRequest or #JournoRequest to find hidden opportunities. Keep your requests short and to the point. Provide them with a summary content brief and why you think it would be beneficial for them to write about it.

  2. Incorporate industry influencers in your content.

    Identify various influencers in your industry that you’d like to showcase on your site. Reach out to each one with a personalized message asking them for for a quick interview or comment. Weave their responses into the content you’re promoting and feature it prominently on your site. This helps promote the influencer as an industry expert while boosting consumer trust of your product or service that would otherwise not be there.

  3. Do something newsworthy.

    Bloggers and press alike love writing about newsworthy items. Support a noble cause or hold a fundraiser for a charity. These kinds of feel-good stories are frequently picked up by agents of the press and can be a significant driver of brand exposure both online and off.

  4. Be the expert.

    The business world tends to be a very dynamic environment. Whether it’s technology, methodology or best practices, industries change all the time. Position yourself as an expert and offer insight into various topics in your industry. Although this is an easy method to acquire earned media, it’s important to be consistent with your efforts. You probably won’t be considered an “expert” right out of the gate. Good things come to those who wait, so keep at it, and people will eventually start to notice.

  5. Use social media.

    Although posting content on your social profiles falls under “owned media,” it can play a pivotal part to help you gain earned media. Identify and share content that is of value to your audience and they will happily share that content on their own networks. This is also true for your employees!. Utilizing your own social media presence as well as your employees can be a quick and effective method of not only distributing your content, but can also help facilitate the acquisition of future earned media opportunities.

As with any PR, you want the story to show you and your business in a positive light. Always craft your content to be light, informational and positive, as that type of content performs better. Earned media should be used in conjunction with owned and paid media to form a comprehensive convergent marketing strategy. All three types of media work together to form a symbiotic relationship that, if implemented correctly, can have a tremendous impact on your overall marketing goals and ultimately your bottom line.

What’s your strategy for acquiring earned media? Do you have a specific earned media strategy that has been particularly successful? Let us know what you think in the comments below!