The role of earned media in lead generation

by | Nov 9, 2020 | Analysis, Public Relations

Marketing and communications professionals constantly field questions as to how their team’s activity, campaigns and programs contribute to ROI. Often, we’re asked “can we really grow our business with a flashy headline, or a tweet?”

While tactics like email campaigns, SEO or targeted advertising provide hard numbers and accessible metrics, earned media is a bit trickier to measure, and therefore can be overlooked as a bad investment for the purpose of driving lead generation.

But consider this: A study from Crazy Egg found that 25-40 percent of all traffic and lead generation comes from earned media, ranking higher than paid media advertising or owned media branding. Earned media can in fact be a valuable tool for marketing and business development teams, when done strategically, thoughtfully, and by tapping a valuable asset: brand advocates. Let’s get in to why.

The role of earned media in lead generation

4 reasons you shouldn’t underestimate the power of an earned media strategy:

  • It gets the right message to the right audiences

Earned media is one of the most trusted, credible forms of content for a brand or business. Why is that? Word of mouth. From a broadcast segment to a contributed article to an online review—all of these fall under the umbrella of “word of mouth marketing” and can be incredibly powerful for a business. In fact, 83 percent of Americans say that a word of mouth recommendation from a friend or family member makes them more likely to purchase that product or service.

Earned media opportunities allow a brand’s customers and community to engage on a brand’s behalf to express their loyalty, share excitement for a new product or initiative—all tactics that help drive lead generation. When paired with media relations specialists or an outside agency, earned media can be taken to new heights. It can become strategic, deliver opportunities that align with a brand’s core audience, and widen exposure where a company’s prospects are located.

  • It gives you a competitive edge

Without question, the main goal of lead generation is to nudge ahead of the competition by winning deals and building your customer portfolio and/or boosting sales revenue. Brands don’t simply have to rely on arbitrary ways to measure “awareness”; there is a way to obtain metrics on how well your earned media efforts are performing through share of voice (SOV).

As told by PR Daily, SOV provides a way to look at earned media on a deeper level, evaluating whether the brand is being referenced in an impactful way that directly relates to your industry. Analyzing a brand’s share of voice provides tangible data that can help with ROI evaluations and strategic planning, and shows how you’re gaining a competitive edge over other companies or similar brands.

  • It’s a catalyst to the power of social media marketing

Arguably the best way to grab attention to drive lead generation is to create “buzz.” Second to word of mouth, social media marketing offers an incredibly powerful tool for lead generation. An eMarketer.com survey recently found 59 percent of respondents name social media marketing as the most effective tactic used for improving lead generation.

Social media allows brands to further increase exposure, drive views and encourage brand advocates to like, reply, share and comment their loyalty and affinity for a company. It doesn’t always have to be a viral moment—a simple act of sharing other earned media (like a recent piece of coverage), engaging with followers, highlighting partners and announcing customer awards all are a part of a winning formula that helps drive lead generation.

In addition, organic influencer strategies and campaigns can reinforce and validate your message. This can be done by creating a series of guest posts or “account takeovers” from a valued customer that’s promoted across channels, or elevating a new partnership with a live-streamed fireside chat between industry executives. Let industry voices strengthen your brand’s messaging and positioning in an authentic and impactful way.

Read about the strategic elements of a social media program with this framework

The role of earned media in lead generation

  • It’s a sustainable investment for long-term ROI

As mentioned, paid media—or targeted advertising—is a great way to compile metrics that show clear lines to lead generation and overall ROI. But earned media often proves to be a more powerful tool. Forrester research found when compared to traditional paid media, which yields conversion rates of 1 percent or less, companies that replace their paid media with trusted, highly effective earned media see conversion rates of 5 percent or higher.

As explored in PAN’s INBOUND 2020 recaps, a deeper investment in your brand will deliver higher levels of lead gen over time. Budgets and marketing spend can fluctuate from year to year, and any downticks can slow down your progress. With earned media, you deliver a long-term, steady drumbeat of exposure that continues to move the needle on lead generation, without high costs or having to rely on this year’s budget meeting going well.

Work with your agency to create campaigns that stay consistent year over year. Distribute the creative elements over multiple channels to target different audiences at different times. Creative distinctiveness is critical to building that long-term brand value.

Don’t let earned media act alone

Earned media can be difficult to master, but we find time and time again it can be the most rewarding. The sustainability of earned media has the power to support a brand for the long haul and only gets stronger over time when run in tandem with other integrated marketing and PR efforts. By trusting their networks, leaning in on the power of word of mouth and the trust and loyalty of your most fervent brand advocates, earned media can be what your brand needs to boost results and drive more leads.

This article originally appeared on the PAN Communications blog; reprinted with permission.

Jess Stefanowicz
Jess Stefanowicz is a Senior Account Executive at PAN Communications.


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