The importance of earned media value—and how to measure it

by | Sep 12, 2022 | Analysis, Public Relations

We know that ‘earned media value’ sounds like one of those digital PR terms that leaves everyone scratching their heads. But it’s worth learning about because it is, in fact, extremely important.

Earned media value is a very useful metric. Understanding it is vital to running any digital campaign, especially if you’re using UGC or working with an influencer.

If you want to bring third parties into your digital campaigns, you need to know what earned media value is and how to calculate it.

Luckily, we’re here to teach you!

What is earned media value?

When it comes to digital marketing, we will discuss three broad types of media:

  • Paid
  • Owned
  • Earned

The importance of earned media value—and how to measure it

Image source

Paid media is (without being too obvious about it!) media that you pay for. Pay-per-click ads, features bought in magazines, and social media ads are all examples of paid media. Media opportunities you leverage to position your brand, such as television appearances, can also count as paid media.

Owned media refers to stuff that you don’t pay a third party to use, but over which you do have some control. Your blog, website, and social media pages are all examples of owned media. This also applies to stuff you have bought from third parties. If you have a reseller certificate for a digital property it counts as owned media, even if it’s still under third party branding.

What we’re concerned with in this article is earned media. Earned media is media that gets shared or promoted by third parties and/or onto third party sites without you having to pay for it. Broadly speaking, the earned media value of a given piece of content details the amount of exposure it gets, and how ‘valuable’ that exposure is.

A good marketing strategy will leverage all of these types of media in conjunction, perhaps using a UCaaS system. But right now, we’re going to concentrate on earned media.

Why is earned media value important?

Earned media value is important because it has a huge impact on your ROI.

Conversions generated through third-party shares (i.e. earned media) can be hard to quantify. But they are a very important part of your whole campaign picture.

Take email marketing for example. It’s easy to calculate the ROI of an email marketing campaign. You just click into email lookup, check out how many emails were sent, how many emails were opened, how many recipients converted, how much you spent on the whole thing and voila, you have your ROI. Because you directly paid for each email, you have a very clear idea of how much bang you got for your buck.

It’s not the same with earned media. You have less control over stuff you’re not paying for, but at the same time that lack of outlay can make it very profitable. A campaign with good earned media value will give high ROI simply by generating exposure that you didn’t pay for. And a good earned media strategy will bring huge exposure for your brand.

Calculating earned media is important when it comes to things like UGC campaigns

UGC (User Generated Content) can be very effective if you do it properly, mostly because people trust ‘people like them’. For example, if you want to boost bookings for your salon, it makes sense to ask satisfied customers to post pictures of their lovely new haircuts rather than getting generic hair pics off the web.

The importance of earned media value—and how to measure it

Image sourced from Day spa association

However, when you rely on your users to produce and promote your content, it can be hard to track your campaign’s performance. By calculating your campaign’s earned media value, you can figure out whether or not your UGC campaign has been a success, and whether it’s worth running another one.

How do you use earned media value?

Earned media value is often used as we’ve just described, to calculate the success of a campaign after it’s run. But it can also be used to predict the success of an influencer campaign.

Let’s say that you’re trying to promote an app that provides users with a virtual phone number in New Zealand. You’re very aware that this is a niche product that will be hard to market without some clout behind it.

So, you decide to use an influencer. You know that influencer marketing can bring some fantastic returns, and you are aware that a product like yours needs a famous and engaging face to pique people’s interest.

The importance of earned media value—and how to measure it

You come up with a great marketing campaign, and you know that the right person could bring huge ROI. But how will you know who the right person is? How can you be sure that you’ve found the right, engaging, shareable front person for your campaign?

You could take an educated guess. That’s not a terrible idea. If you know your audience, it’s likely that you have a pretty good idea of where they hang out and the kinds of influencers they will respond to. So, educated guessing will help you come up with a decent shortlist.

What then? Well, you could spend laborious hours digging into engagement data to find out which of your shortlisted options perform the best with audiences like yours…or you could calculate their earned media value.

OK, calculating EMV does still involve some data-based legwork, but it’s a lot simpler than trying to compare one influencer’s TikTok with another influencer’s Instagram and figuring out which is more engaging. Rather than this kind of apples-to-oranges exercise, you get a solid figure which you can use to estimate your own ROI if you go with this person.

Many influencers and B2B platforms will now tell you their estimated EMV during contract negotiations, which makes things even easier for you.

How to calculate earned media value

It’s hard to be completely objective about the ‘value’ of any earned media. So, there is no set way to calculate EMV. However, a popular way to calculate EMV involves looking at impressions.

Impressions are a popular variable because they indicate how far your content has traveled. Everyone wants to generate impressions and boost their reach. However, you can swap out impressions for another metric if that makes more sense for your campaign.

To calculate EMV using impressions, multiply the number of impressions by the cost per thousand impressions. Then multiply the result by the variable you are tracking (like engagement or conversions).

The importance of earned media value—and how to measure it

Image created by author

This will give you a number that you can use to understand how successful your campaign has been, or how good an influencer could be for your campaign.

But that’s not the end of the story. To really understand EMV, you need to step away from the calculator and engage in some social listening.

How to properly understand earned media value

Calculating earned media value is a quick and easy way to track or predict campaign performance. However, to really get some great insights from that equation, you need to look a bit deeper.

Just running the numbers and leaving it at that is the equivalent of making a call recording for training purposes and then never, ever using any calls for training purposes. You’re wasting time and resources and not learning anything.

Earned media value will tell you how successful a campaign has been, but it won’t tell you why. To get to the bottom of what you’ve done right (or wrong!) you need to look at your content like a customer.

You can do this by social listening. This involves clicking into your campaign and studying how it’s being received on a human level. Ask yourself:

  • Who shared it?
  • Why did they share it?
  • What are they saying about it?
  • What do they like about it?
  • What do they dislike about it?

Social listening is a growing skill, and techniques for improving your social listening are being developed all the time. If you’re not sure where to start, it’s worth taking a webinar in social listening, or even just reading up on the subject. This is an area that’s likely to grow in both scope and importance in the near future.

The importance of earned media value—and how to measure it

Use earned media value to understand and improve your campaigns

Earned media value is an important metric which can help you to better understand your campaigns, your audience, and your brand.

Calculating earned media value is a fantastic way not only to figure out where your ROI is coming from, but also to get a handle on what your audience enjoys.

With a bit of social listening, you can work out why your high EMV campaigns perform as well as they do. And that’s valuable information. Shareability is a much-coveted attribute in digital marketing. If you can work out what your audience likes to share, you could give yourself a massive competitive advantage.

So, don’t underestimate the power of EMV! It’s not just a buzzword, and it’s also not just a metric.

Gerard D'Onofrio
Gerard D’Onofrio is the Country Manager for Dialpad Australia, an AI-equipped business communications solutions platform for better communications at work. Gerard is experienced in discovering world-class developments and turning them into effective business advancements, wherever he goes. Here is his LinkedIn.


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