1st March 2018

Earned media isn’t dead – it just needs updating

In an age of disbelief, brands need to work harder than ever to stand out and us comms experts need to adapt our PR techniques, in order to gain awareness and engagement with people who are bombarded with noise and constant Brexit updates.

There are a multitude of media platforms available and we live in era of dual screening and limited attention – brands need to look at tactics that not only grab attention, and quickly, but drive action.  With the latest algorithm change from Facebook, there is an increased emphasis on social media as an advertising platform. Brands are looking to get the most impact for spend and directly attribute results from a multi-channel approach. Essentially they need to be as commercial as possible, alongside being in line with the content needing to be authentic and ‘meaningful’.

What’s more the trust in social media giants is decreasing – only a quarter of the UK population are now saying that they trust social media as a source for news and information, according to Edelman’s Trust Barometer. Fake news has upped the ante and social platforms such as Facebook are seen as being instrumental in driving this. Facebook has changed how it elevates news, by incorporating user feedback on which news outlets show be trusted, however this begs the question – how does Facebook know what is a trusted source? People are more sceptical than ever and are looking for more regulation in the industry, meaning they are trusting their peers more on more on what is credible.

And here comes the need for trust. Brands need to earn consumer’s trust by building this through earned media and honesty, but a new generation of earned media, where brands can see genuine engagement and obtain tangible metrics, alongside honesty and transparency on social media.   They need to build this trust through genuine ‘meaningful’ reviews and not rely on the ‘old school’ method of advertising to result in editorial coverage.

One of the main reasons there has been less focus on earned media most recently, is because it has been difficult to provide tangible metrics – something which has been under scrutiny for some time.  However, there’s been a huge increase in trust in traditional media (61%), reaching levels not seen since 2012* and latest measurement techniques can deliver the insight needed to show how earned media contributes to revenue growth.

Some of the world’s biggest brands have maximised the impact of their earned media initiatives.  For example, Bacardi transformed its corporate social responsibility strategy using PR measurement insights to target key stakeholders. Following the change, it saw its earned media coverage increase 300%.

Gartner’s latest CMO spend survey revealed that paid and owned media budgets were forecast to rise 300% in 2017. Now, technology is opening the door for the same kind of rapid expansion in comms.

But we need to think bigger than ‘traditional PR’ when thinking about earned media.  As Lisa Hale puts it in her blog “traditional PR practitioners need to adapt and think bigger than purely ‘earned media’. They must consider much larger-scale campaigns that don’t wholly rely on either traditional ‘PR’ or earned, if they intend to meet objectives and deliver a brand’s desired KPIs.” It is harder than ever to secure traditional media coverage so we need to be smart, integrated and think creatively.

Traditional brand storytelling needs to makes some noise and compete with the authentic stories told by individuals, by being relevant and interesting.  Earned media generates trust and it’s important we continue to drive this, by changing the way we resonate as brands, and bridge the gap between people and brands.

 

*Edelman’s Trust Barometer 2017

 

By Sarah Schofield, Senior Account Manager