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Author: Heidi Cohen
While marketing and PR experts may disagree, earned media is broadly defined as getting other people to talk about your company and/or brand regardless of where it appears – especially customers, influencers, and other media entities
Like other forms of marketing, Earned Media must support your business objectives, yield results that are measurable and show that you’ve contributed to achieving your goals.
But in a sense, earned media is a lot like Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s definition of pornography, “I know it when I see it.”
It’s much easier to comprehend a complex topic like earned media using solid examples that illustrate the concept in action.
Here are examples from 34 marketing and PR professionals. (Note: Like proud parents, many have spotlighted their own organization’s best work.)
1. I’m a big fan of the Share a Coke campaign where Coke released cans and bottles with people’s names on them last summer.
It generated massive amounts of earned media. The best may have been a certain major life event announced to the world by a couple playing around with personalized Diet Coke cans. David Berkowitz, MRY; Twitter: @dberkowitz
2. One form of earned media that’s appreciated by influencers is including them on a list from a credible source, such as Cision’s Top 50 Content Marketers to Follow on Twitter. Bernie Borges, Find and Convert; Twitter: @BernieBorges
3. My favorite earned media example is Dove’s research on “The Truth About Beauty.” The results garnered significant press since the data showed that only 2% of women thought that they were beautiful. Dove’s research was ground breaking especially since the CPG firm was selling soap, not cosmetics.
Dove leveraged this research to related campaigns and not-for-profit efforts to get girls to view themselves in a more positive ways.
Here’s one of their related ads that’s accrued over 65+ million views on YouTube.
Actionable Earned Media Tip:
- Perform research that’s core to your mission or audience. This type of information attracts not only third party press but also gets your target audience talking.
Heidi Cohen, Actionable Marketing Guide; twitter: @HeidiCohen
4. I often get asked a lot of questions about marketing.
Recently, Kim Cooper of Rignite, a marketing blog, asked, “Is it okay to repost “duplicate” content on LinkedIn and Medium?” Rather than just answer the question via email, I suggested she ask me a short series of questions she could repurpose into a blog post on her site.
The result: Interview post about duplicate content, a fast, easy example of earned media that most marketers can use. The key was to think creatively and collaboratively with the end audience in mind.
Andy Crestodina, Orbit Media and author of Content Chemistry; Twitter: @Crestodina
5. SalesForce’s video on cloud computing is a good example of B2B earned media). This video explains cloud computing in a very simple way.
In addition to earning 1.6M organic YouTube views, that SalesForce’s competitors used it to explain the cloud to their customers. Guillaume Decugis, Scoop.It; Twitter: @GDecugis
6. Our CMO Michael Gerard authored Six Crucial Attributes of a Successful Business Blog. Published on MarketingProfs blog, the post attracted 1,400+ social shares and yielded 50+ leads for Curata. Earned media was a low-cost, highly effective lead generation method. Pawan Deshpande, Curata; Twitter: @TweetsFromPawan
7. An awesome piece of earned content was the Vocal Ranges of the World’s Greatest Singers Concert published by Concert Hotels on its own site.
While actually an example of “owned media”, not “earned media”, take a close look at the social shares it generated. It has 100,000+ Facebook shares.
That’s a rocking example (sorry for the pun) of earned media in action. Making this work involved several elements:
- Produce content involving original research most readers wouldn’t be willing to do.
- Create a compelling presentation of the results.
- Have a strong social presence to launch the post and give it visibility.
8. I don’t have one example or earned media. Frankly, I don’t think there is one example.
Earned media isn’t the latest viral video that gets millions of shares or blog posts that attract thousands of daily visitors because it ranks top for a high volume keyword. For me, these are like lottery tickets, you may have once in your life, but you never know what makes them happen.
The real earned media is built every day, consistently, for years. It’s the sum of a lot of many small things help you gain trust, attention and, ultimately, word of mouth and increased awareness. Emeric Ernoult, Agorapulse; Twitter: @EErnoult
9. My favorite recent example is probably all the coverage that 360i got after its 2013 “Dunk in the Dark” real-time tweet for Oreo. The advertisers got everything from print write-ups, to blogs, to TV coverage.
Stephanie Fierman, MediaCom Worldwide; Twitter: @StephFierman
10. Someone purchased a copy of my book, The Art of Social Media, and was so excited that he tweeted me a photo of his book with a stuffed minion. As the author, I was so excited to have people be so interested in my book that they organically posted a photo. I shared it on my Twitter account, Facebook profile, and Instagram account.
If you’re managing a brand, you should be social listening to catch your earned media with tools such as Mention, Google alerts, Sprout Social monitoring or Buzz Sumo alerts.
According to a study by Inpowered and Nielsen, the highest levels of trust from consumers are awarded to trusted experts. “85% of consumers regularly or occasionally seek out trusted expert content (credible, third-party articles, and reviews) when considering a purchase.” Here’s related customer trust research on influencers and media. Peg Fitzpatrick, author of The Art of Social Media; Twitter: @PegFitzpatrick
11. I’m a big fan of infographics. I especially like Neil Patel’s explanation, How To Create An Infographic That Can Generate 5,000 Visitors Per Month. Here’s an example of an infographic from Copyblogger .
12. Earned media doesn’t get much better than Target’s compilation of user-generated videos of students opening college acceptance letters:
That video made me cry, and I’m not a crier. It also served to reignite public interest in a philanthropic effort to fund education that the company first announced in 2010. Kerry O’Shea Gorgone, MarketingProfs; Twitter: @KerryGorgone
13. Let’s look at a smaller, light-hearted example of earned media. When MediaLab 3D Solutions won “Coolest Office Space” in Tampa, they earned “traditional” media coverage by the local business journal.
After that, a local recruiting firm saw a picture of their foosball table and challenged them to a duel. The buzz snowballed until the casually tweeted challenge became an all out “war.”
Before they knew it, MediaLab had local news reporters, Red Bull, professional Tweeters and the Tampa Bay Business Journal attending and covering the event. MediaLab was in an all-out recruiting mode at the time. The earned media helps make the firm attractive to new recruits to this day. Deana Goldasich, Well Planned Web, LLC; Twitter: @Goldasich
14. To drive bacon sales, we tested the theory that Oscar Mayer bacon was as good as currency. So we sent a man cross-country with no cash or credit cards – just a refrigerated truck of Oscar Mayer Butcher Thick Cut Bacon.
All barters were arranged via social media and videos of the barters were distributed online.
After 41K barters, our barterer made it across the country, and earned more 300+MM impressions for his experience, proving that Oscar Mayer’s bacon is good enough to be used as currency. Sarah Hofstetter, 360i; Twitter: @Pezmeister1
15. Pomplamoose is one of my favorite examples of how any company can work hand in hand with community to earn trust, media and build a business.
Pomplamoose is a one man-one woman creative team and band out of San Francisco. Performing a mix of album covers and original work, they earn media by placing a heavy emphasis on their fans and sharing their own personal journey.
In return, fans fund their music videos through Patreon, a site for funding and engaging with the arts. To date, not a dollar has been spent on paid media, yet the buzz around their band continues to grow and they’re being booked into larger venues. Kelly Hungerford, Paper.li; Twitter: @KDHungerford
16. My favorite examples of earned media are when people share a paid media message on a social network. It underscores the difference between earned and paid media as well as showing how the two can work together creating an effective CPM for a brand. It makes you ask: “What is your advertising’s earning power?” Max Kalehoff, Social Code; Twitter: @ MaxKalehoff
17. My agency’s slideshare, ‘Crap: Why the Biggest Threat to Content Marketing is Content Marketing’ received almost 15% of its 1+million views from embeds on top blogs such as Marketing Profs, Hubspot and Econsultancy. Doug Kessler, Velocity; Twitter: @DougKessler
18. Vertical Measures experienced earned media success due to an infographic we designed called “What Makes and Infographic Bad and How to Make it Better.”
The result: Our website experienced a huge traffic spike attributed to the fact this infographic blog post was shared on a popular Facebook page called Interaction Design.
Interaction Design has a very active community (currently 300+k fans) prompting many “likes,” comments and shares. This activity contributed to the traffic spike. Due to this post, other Facebook users and pages shared the link with their audiences. Despite being 2 years old, this post continues to garner many visits a day. Arnie Kuenn, Vertical Measures and author of Content Marketing Works; Twitter: @ArnieK
19. I feel that the best earned media successes are ones where the viral K factor are so high it’s actually worth paying to further amplify the message. Some of my favorite videos are:
- Early Orabrush videos
- Blendtec “Will it blend” videos
- Dollar Shave Club
20. Apple Watch’s a media blitz. Of course, it’s Apple but the company did a fantastic job getting the word out.
Google Apple Watch and you get 105 million references. The images of the watch on Apple’s site so are sensual they’re almost pornographic.
21. Apple. Period.
The company’s product launches represent marketing at its finest, and the resulting earned media creates consumer demand far more powerful than any direct sales channel.
Consumer awareness starts with press, via hundreds of reporters covering and live-blogging each event. This is extended though company produced promotional product videos (available for viewing on their website immediately after the event), partners cross-promote the products, and the sneak peek of upcoming paid media.
While consumer awareness starts with the press and social coverage, the product is the center of attention. The earned media impact on consideration, leads and sales can be measured back to the initial launch event.Erin (Mack) McKelvey, SalientMG; Twitter: @MackMcKelvey
22. When I absolutely love a product or service, I’m very likely going to talk about it through my social channels. When a company truly delights me either online or offline, I’m also very likely to share this experience with my networks.
For example I am a huge fan of Eat 24 and they absolutely kill it in the social space. By making their online experience easy to share and fun to engage with, they get me talking about them each and every time I order food online.
That’s the best type of earned media that any product or service can achieve. Remember this works both ways, meaning both great experiences and negative ones.
From a content marketing perspective my advice is:
- Don’t try too hard and simply create content that answers questions, solves problems and brings a unique point of view to the conversation. If you’re doing it right then you’ll see success with earned media through mentions, shares, reviews etc. It really is as simple as that.
23. My all time favorite, though perhaps overused, example of earned media is the “You Can Still Dunk In The Dark” tweet by Oreo during Super Bowl 47 in 2013.
While I’m a Super Bowl commercial enthusiast, I had to go look up which commercial they aired that year, but I remember the tweet and the shift in real-time visual participation and listening it represented. Kevin Mullet, MarketSnare; Twitter: @KMullett
24. In my experience, the best earned media comes from the information I share on my blogs, social media, and my AdAge Digital Next column.
A good example is a G+ Hangout on Air I produced for PRSA last year with John Yembrick, NASA Social Media Manager, Sona Patel, New York Times Social Media Editor, Ronnie Bincer and Natan Edelsburg. It was attended by 1,500 and shared many thousands of times.
B.L. Ochman, Maximum-Plus.com; Twitter: WhatsNext
25. Earned media is all about trust. This is why I love this piece on Budweiser that appeared in the LA Times. Not only did the piece make Anheuser-Busch look fantastic from a marketing perspective, but also the LA Times is a trustworthy third party source.Larry Otsuka, Outbrain; Twitter: @LOtsuka197
26. Gravity Payments recently decided to make their minimum wage $70,000 for their company. This measure created a lot of buzz and caused hundreds if not thousands of videos and press articles. Neil Patel, Crazy Egg; Twitter: @NeilPatel
[Editorial note: It’s also a great way to attract the best employees and partners. These 2 elements contribute more to your bottom line than the earned media.]
27. One of my favorite earned media examples is the coverage State Farm’s William Shatner video received. It’s a wonderful piece of content called Eat, Fry, Love – and Shatner taught (both correctly and incorrectly) the way to properly deep fat fry a turkey.
They not only received millions of dollars worth of earned media coverage, but also substantially reduced the number of deep fat fryer claims.
28. To help a client that sold personalized labels for babies and children. We sent sets of labels to celebrities, personalized with the names of their children, with a friendly note about the company and its products.
This effort really paid off. We received a call from a producer for “The View” to let us know how much one of the co-hosts liked the labels. They were preparing a special maternity leave farewell episode for one of the co-hosts. They were featuring “10 Mommy Must Haves”, including our client’s product.
Only pregnant women were in the audience for this episode and each received a gift basket with all 10 items. The day the show aired the client’s website received more traffic and more sales were made than any day in the company’s history. Other media picked up the story and linked to the website. Lucy Siegel, Bridge Global Strategies (a Didit Company); Twitter: @BridgeGlobalPR
29. After throwing a new product launch party for our newest line of Skinnygirl Sparklers created with Bethenny Frankel, our PR team stayed up until 3 am pitching various media outlets.
Our work resulted in numerous high profile articles and media placements. For example, we got a story in Perez Hilton called The Real Housewives Of New York Pack Plenty Of Drama & Glimmer For The Skinnygirl Sparklers Event! The article featured photos of the girls at the event, including them posing on the Step & Repeat where the AriZona and Skinnygirl Sparkler logo are visible. Jennifer Smith, AriZona Beverages; Twitter: @DrinkArizona
30. At Ameritech, we launched a new product called Privacy Manager through a news media conference, to test what earned media could achieve on its own.
We also delayed the planned advertising launch for 3 weeks, so that all the initial sales could be attributed to earned media alone.
Results: We generated $6 million worth of earned media, helped the product launch successfully, and exceeded initial sales goals even before the advertising began. George Stenitzer, Crystal Clear Communications; Twitter: @RiverWordGuy
31. A brand that has been built on content creation alone is a great example of earned media. Two examples are XKCD and The Oatmeal; they get shared just because they’re wonderful. Jim Sterne of eMetrics Summit and Digital Analytics Association. He’s also author of Email Marketing; Twitter: @JimSterne
32. Asking a public relations professional to share their best example of earned media is like asking a mother who is her favorite child.
Here’s an opinion piece developed and placed in newspapers across the country to coincide with the release of Mall Cop 11. [Note: Think about how you can take advantage of current events, even if they’re happening in different areas of interest from your business.] Nancy Tamosaitis-Thompson, Vorticom, Inc.; Twitter: @Vorticom
33. I think one interesting example of earned media is the series of Lincoln commercials featuring Matthew McConaughey which generated lots of earned media in the form of parodies.
Texas-area Police Spoof:
It’s one of my favorite examples of earned media not only due to the large number of high-quality parodies, but also since the Lincoln ads were a well-known topic of conversation for several months.
A quick glance at the YouTube search shows that parodies yielded nearly 20 million views. By comparison, the original 4 videos by Lincoln generated only about 5 million views. I’m sure that many of these can be attributed to people searching for the parodies. Eric T. Tung, BMC Software; Twitter: @EricTTung
34. We launched OneTap, a new app to curb distracted driving, at a live news conference in Calgary, Alberta, attended by Canadian Press, Canada’s news wire service. Its report was picked up across Canada generating 133 stories. Downloads soared in every market immediately following publication. Deborah Weinstein, Strategic Objectives; Twitter: @DebWeinstein
- Actionable Marketing Guide has edited responses for grammar and formatting. Any change in meaning is totally our fault.
- A number of contributors spotlighted multiple examples of earned media. Due to space, we shortened their contributions.
As these examples show, earned media not only attracts third party media, but also provides content that’s good enough to get your target audience to read, share, improvise and engage with it.
As a result your organization’s activities and content power word of mouth extending your reach exponentially and enable it to take on a life of its own.
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