What is Earned Media Value and How to Measure it?

George Mastorakis

George Mastorakis is the Director of E-business Intelligence Laboratory at Hellenic Mediterranean Univeristy in Greece. George and his team provide brands the customized social intelligence tools and technology needed to maximize their social footprint.

Earned media revolves around publicity that your brand earns by serving your clients. It broadly includes mentions, shares, reviews, and reposts by your clients, fans of your brand, and the brand advocates. It is all about the “buzz” that’s going around your brand.

Earned media (or free media) represents the content that third parties write about you and publish on channels NOT owned by you (social media tops the list). An Instagram share, a post on a food blog, a news mention about your brand, or a Google review is enough to bring in earned media for a powerful online presence.

The reviews in the image below describe how earned media works when homeowners look for the best HVAC systems in San Francisco, CA.

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The Concept of Earned Media Value (EMV)

Earned Media Value is a metric that measures the value of all the PR and marketing efforts that third parties put in to promote your brand. It is the economic value of word-of-mouth that your company gains after featuring in social media, review sites, press, and news releases.

EMV includes calculating the worth of branded content earned from referrals, blogs, social posts, influencer marketing, and more. It revolves around measuring social media engagement with third-party content about your brand.

Here’s how clothing brands earn referrals from fashion bloggers.

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Calculating earned media value reveals the merit of past interactions and engagement for a brand discovering the costs otherwise would have incurred with paid media.

Why do Brands Give Significant Importance to Earned Media?

There’s a straightforward reason behind; the brands don’t create or purchase earned media directly.

You don’t pay your customers or fans to spread the word-of-mouth for your business. It turns out to be a reliable form of content as your customers provide an honest opinion about your product without you having to curate their words.

Measuring Earned Media Value

The result of third-party efforts and your reputation from word-of-mouth is revealed while measuring the earned media value. Well, there’s not a one-size-fits-all formula to measure EMV, but there are three different formula models that can help you to reach somewhere meaningful.

●       Impression Formula

EMV measurement using the impressions model reveals the awareness of the target audience with a brand’s service or product. The number of impressions indicates how many times your post (portraying your product) delivers to the user’s feed.

In the impressions model, when the audience is aware of media and content assets like magazine articles, radio and television broadcasts, and newspaper stories, the brand needs fewer efforts to expose their opinions about the company’s product. 

To implement this method, you have to compare impressions count to the number of purchases. It will give a clear picture of how aware your target audience is of your brand and what you have earned from the media assets.

Drawback Impressions model does not consider the actual customer behavior while the content flashes on their screen. What if they haven’t seen the Instagram post actually, as it just scrolls up with other jobs, for instance? That won’t count as an attribute that makes a difference.

●       Media Impact Formula

The media impact model concentrates on measuring the sales patterns of a company against the earned media. It tracks how earned media impacts the sales in different markets over time. This formula usually determines the marketing tactic that is actually driving sales for the company, and in this instance – it is earned media.

The businesses calculate the approximate ROI to measure the change in sales with time due to earned media exposure.

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While working with this model, the quality and quantity of media impact are considered, rating them on a scale of 0-100. Along with this, the companies track the changes in sales. To discover the coverage of sales against earned media over time, eventually, regression analysis computes the result.

Drawback – The media impact model is incomplete as one cannot account for every factor that drives in sales. You have to aggregate data from the customers to spot the real trigger behind their purchases. Monitoring social media stats also serves the purpose.

●       Target Influence Formula

The target influence model assesses whether the intended audience gets the message or not. You have tons of content to display to your target audience. But, does that content really make its way to your people? The target influence model answers the question.

It involves surveying to find out if the message has reached its assigned audience.

The formula considers recall, retention, attitude changes in your audience to measure the earned media value based on influence.

Drawback – Since earned media undergoes a lag effect on sales, surveying in the target influence model is not the best option, especially at the end of the campaigns. Surveys depict the situation at a particular time instant. A meta-study fulfills the purpose of discovering the actual trends.

The measurement models clear the myth of consistency in calculating the earned media value. Though they consider impressions, reach, and engagement across social media channels, they cannot set a benchmark for all the industries to measure their EMVs. These models can only put forward a suggestion, but after all, it’s just an estimate.

Now, this is what questions the worth of Earned Media Value.

Does Measuring Earned Media Value Make Sense?

Although the measurement metrics like impressions are not concrete enough to address your business goals, EMVs can combine with other parameters to serve the purpose.

Earned media value (EMV) does hold importance while giving you an overview of your PR, marketing, and media strategy efforts. But it fails to illustrate the impact of earned media in the sales, growth, and success of your company.

So, How Can You Calculate the Actual Value of Earned Media?

To put it simply, you need a robust earned media strategy first, and then some alternatives to instill in the measurement approach.

Let’s define those parameters:

●       Engagement

Content that can reach a smaller but more engaged audience is more reliable than content that reaches a broader but less involved audience. Incorporating engagement metrics helps you combat the possible risks of potential reach. It allows you to define the value of third-party efforts clearly.

Some of you may not relate it directly with sales, as it does not indicate the change in sales. But if you analyze the engagement metrics regularly against your competitors, you will identify the difference.

It gives a clear insight into the efficacy of your earned media strategy. Engagement metrics unveils the real endeavors behind gaining the value for your marketing practices. Also, you can spot the elements that are driving more sales to your business so you can replicate them.

The engagement metrics of Instagram allows you to assess the involvement of your audience in your messages. It considers the likes, comments, saves, story replies, and profile clicks to calculate the engagement rate per impression. You can leverage the engagement value and analyze the performance of your marketing efforts. 

●       Sentiment

Reviews directly impact a brand’s online reputation; while a positive one can be overwhelming, a negative review is detrimental. Considering the sentiment allows you to be aware of what kind of response the third-party content is generating for your brand.

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For example, counting the number of impressions for a post may sound fair while using one of the EMV measurement methods. Perhaps, the calculation also is in favor of your brand. But what if your computation fails to consider a negative review that could damage your brand image?

Will that be feasible for your company? Negative sentiment abruptly affects sales, and so would the positive sentiment do.

It is, therefore, vital to go with a more mature metric to calculate your earned media efforts. The sentiment actually overweighs the impressions count at this level.

●       Share of Voice (SOV)

Earned media value discloses the number of people that are talking about your brand. But it fails to set a benchmark that can measure how the count compares to your industry. You won’t be able to find how you are facing the competition.

With Share of Voice as a measurement metric in your earned media strategy, you can count the number of mentions for your brand. At the same time, you can compare your position to your competitors.

A mention on a popular blog can give you a high earned media value. But your competitor may have a greater number of mentions on the same blog. What does it mean?

Your message loses its value there itself, and you won’t perceive it to be this way. Consequently, you will get a blurred insight into your efforts, misleading your future strategy.

Share of Voice benchmarks a level to assess the number of mentions for your brand while calculating your share in the market. This way, Share of Voice is a sophisticated metric to demonstrate the actual impact of your brand’s marketing practices.

The Takeaway

The idea behind alternatives to basic measurement metrics is not to avoid using Earned Media Value but to foster brands to strategize their earned media efforts carefully. Integrating smart metrics can help you figure out the elements that are generating more buzz about your brand.