TechMunch: What we’ve learned about earned

They say you never forget your first – piece of coverage that is.

Whatever your route into PR was, it’s likely one of the first tasks you were ever set was a media-relations one. Building a media list. Writing a pitch. Selling in a press release. Compiling a coverage report. And despite the rise of social media, digital platforms, user-generated content, influencers and even the notion of fake news, for me there’s still an unmistakable thrill attached to securing a good piece of earned coverage. In our recent study of the UK technology buyer landscape, The Top-Line Growth Imperative, we found that the majority of respondents (58%) still consider earned coverage in technology publications as the most effective communications path to purchase. Third party endorsement, particularly from a respected source, remains a compelling and persuasive voice to have on your side.

But that isn’t to say the needle hasn’t moved on earned coverage since I was an intern securing that prized first ever piece (for a well-known soft-drink brand, in case you were wondering).

Redefining ‘earned’ – press coverage is great but with so many additions and changes to the information landscape, to think of it as the only definition of earned media is too narrow. Any mention of you, your brand or your products, without payment involved to secure it, is ‘earned’. Some days that’s a profile piece in a national news publication; others it’s a social media mention from an influencer or an endorsement on another company’s channel. They all require messaging strategy, storytelling skills and relationships to achieve; and they should all be counted as a PR result for that reason.

Connecting earned and paid – securing a great piece isn’t the first step in an effective comms cycle but nor is it the last. That piece has to get in front of as many relevant eyes as possible to maximise the value it delivers back to the business. From promoting PR results through paid strategies and using social retargeting to seed follow up content; to, ultimately, driving interested users directly to an owned property, integration with owned channels is essential to increasing the shelf-life and overall value of an earned PR result.

Success is a science – thankfully the dark days of Ad Value Equivalent are behind us, but there are still many organisations out there trying to measure PR success in purely volume-based terms; which are primarily useful as an indication of awareness, not necessarily intent or loyalty. As we tailor message and medium to the appropriate stage of the customer journey, measuring how those choices are working has to evolve too. An integrated approach to sweating an earned coverage asset opens up opportunities for new and more meaningful ways to measure the value PR brings to the marketing mix and the bottom line.

At FleishmanHillard Fishburn we know there’s a lot to be gained in achieving great earned media coverage. And we know there’s even more so in helping our clients use that coverage to deliver value and ROI at every stage of the sales funnel. If you’d like to know more about how we do both, please do get in touch.

Lakshmi Rajendran, Technology