Despite fake news concerns, consumers say earned media drives brand awareness best

by | Aug 19, 2019 | Public Relations

2019 marks the first year that digital marketing spend will outpace spend across traditional channels like TV, radio, and newspapers—which gives digitally native brands the opportunity to effectively compete with legacy companies on their own digital turf. But the sheer number of online platforms creates the risk of oversaturation—and a question among CMOs of where to allocate marketing budgets. In addition, there’s a fear that PR methods may be losing consumer appeal because the proliferation of fake news is exacerbating the distrust of media coverage and the brands associated with it.

New research from digital PR and content marketing agency Beantown Media Ventures (BMV) explores how brands garner attention and drive purchases online, while also examining consumer viewpoints on digital channels and uncovering how trust is earned in the fake news era. According to the firm’s inaugural BMV Digital Brand: Awareness, Engagement & Action Index, earned media is the number one way consumers say they discover products online, with 30 percent of respondents saying that a digital news article is typically how they hear about new products and services online. Furthermore, consumers say news articles are also the most impactful in shaping their buying decisions.

Despite fake news concerns, consumers say earned media drives brand awareness best

Media coverage has the most influence

In fact, news articles came out ahead of positive social media posts on a product or service from friends and family (28 percent) as being the most impactful for driving a buying decision. Meanwhile, while 29 percent of consumers admitted that social and digital ads drive their awareness of new products, only 12 percent said a positive mention of a brand in a digital or social ad influences their buying decision.

Despite fake news concerns, consumers say earned media drives brand awareness best

“While there’s little doubt that brands must look beyond telling their story exclusively through traditional PR and earned media in our digital age, the pendulum may have swung too far in the direction of social media advertising, branded content creation, and paid influencer endorsements,” said Kyle Austin, founder and managing partner of BMV, in a news release. “The fake news era has created an appetite among consumers for trustworthy information from credible media outlets. As a byproduct, digital news articles are driving product awareness, and ultimately purchases, more effectively than other digital alternatives that have been commanding large budgets as of late.”

Despite fake news concerns, consumers say earned media drives brand awareness best

Other key findings from the report include:

  • Younger consumers (Gen Z and Millennials) say that they’re most likely to learn about new consumer products from social media and digital advertisements (35 percent).
  • Compared to consumer products and services, branded content (company blog, social media, video) came in much higher (27 percent) as the way potential buyers say they discover B2B products vs. B2C products online (13 percent).
  • Nearly a third of consumers (32 percent) say they follow and consume branded social media content simply because it’s interesting and engaging.
  • 86 percent of consumers say fake news exists online.
  • However, nearly half of consumers (49 percent) say fake news is most likely to appear first on and spread from social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube rather than spreading from national news sites (20 percent).
  • 3 out of 4 consumers say they are at least sometimes dissuaded from doing business with a company that they believe/know has been collecting data on them for advertising purposes.

Despite fake news concerns, consumers say earned media drives brand awareness best

“While our index indicates that brands are likely undervaluing the sales impact of media relations in the digital age, the difficulty in achieving earned media distribution in today’s 86,400-second news cycle means brands must also be able to create compelling stories across owned channels and amplify through influencers and social ads,” said John Eidson, VP of content and strategy at BMV, in the release. “This is especially true in driving awareness and engagement with younger demographics. In contrast with other generations, Gen Z and millennials say that they’re most likely to learn about consumer products from social media advertisements, and 40 percent of them say they follow and consume a brand’s social media account just because it’s interesting.”

Download the full report here.

Despite fake news concerns, consumers say earned media drives brand awareness best

The report surveyed more than 1,000 consumers in the 1H of 2019, weighted for U.S. population.

Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 17 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richard.carufel@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter