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Author: Heidi Cohen
How do you track earned media?
Earned media: It’s when other people, influencers and/or media entities mention you or your business on one or more media platforms.
As result, you increase your reach and garner attention that contributes to your business objectives.
Earned media metrics defined
Just as experts differ in how they define earned media, they differ in how they define earned media metrics. Here’s how 37 marketing and PR experts track earned media and the metrics they use. (Here are 34 earned media examples to help you.)
1. Typically, marketers are looking at impressions, responses, shares, ‘likes’ or ‘favorites,’ and the sentiment of conversation. Those are decent metrics to track the volume and tenor of what’s being shared.
It helps to get benchmarks though, such as for an industry or competing brands, and also look at how any campaign or content compares to everything else that brand does.
It’s also possible for earned media to lead to direct response results. For instance, using technologies like Chute or Bazaarvoice, marketers can curate earned media created about specific brands or products and show that to shoppers as a way to influence purchase decisions.
One obvious earned media metric is social shares as shown by the share icons on an online article. While they have some value, they are also a form of vanity metrics. David Berkowitz, MRY; @dberkowitz
2. A key metric is the engagement that can occur from earned media, especially when a positive outcome occurs such as leads, sales, an invitation to speak, write, consult, etc. Bernie Borges, Find and Convert; @BernieBorges
3. Earned media metrics depend largely on where your brand or firm is mentioned and by whom. Additionally, you must consider what your marketing objectives are and the target audience you’re seeking to reach.
Among the key ways to track earned media results are
- Mentions in third party media. Marketers often use impressions from the articles appearing in different publications.
- Publication of your articles on third party blogs and websites. Includes article placement and/or guest blogging.
- Presentations at other people’s webinars, events and conferences. Getting a speaking slot at a trade show gets you a lot of visibility especially if the conference promotes it highly.
- Social media likes, shares and comments. Especially other customers and influencers.
- Search results. Earned media supports your search optimization tactics via links to your website from other sites of authority.
- Word of mouth. Both people talking about what you’re doing and positive reviews on sites like Yelp, Amazon and TripAdvisor.
Heidi Cohen, Actionable Marketing Guide; @HeidiCohen
4. Here are a few earned media metrics:
- Brand mentions (trackable using TalkWalker Alerts)
- Links (viewable in the “trackbacks” report in Analytics)
- Referral traffic (if the mention included a link)
- Domain Authority (if you’re focused on SEO)
If you don’t track it, how will you know if it worked? Visibility equals accountability. Andy Crestodina, Orbit Media and author of Content Chemistry; @Crestodina
5. I focus on the number of pieces of earned media we receive (we track them using our own platform) as well as the number of times they were shared as this captures both frequency and impact. Guillaume Decugis, Scoop.It; @GDecugis
6. Since we can’t access other organizations’ analytics numbers, it is hard to gather an abundance of data surrounding earned media. However, you can take a look at a few metrics. Here are two of the most important:
- Social Shares – Measure this with a tool such as SharedCount and use the number as a proxy for page views. If a post garners a lot of social shares, you can assume the number of page views is also high. In addition, this helps gauge the reach of the website and determine if you should continue to pitch to this organization.
- Leads Generated– Since bringing in new business is one of the main reasons to seek out mentions and bylines, It’s especially important to look at the number leads generated by a piece of earned media.
Pawan Deshpande, Curata; @TweetsFromPawan
7. It’s important to remember that we pursue publishing media for business purposes. In some way, this needs to tie into real ROI. For that reason, the best answer to this question varies by business. If you have a site that makes money based on banner ads, then generating page views is a great metric.
For some, the objective is to improve their search engine rankings, in which case it’s useful to be tracking that on a regular basis and measuring changes in those rankings.
If your business is a B2B business like the one I work at (Stone Temple Consulting), the metrics are more subtle. Ultimately, we’d like to see new incoming leads to our business resulting from the content marketing campaigns we implement.
For that reason, we ask each new lead that comes in “how did you learn about us?” In many cases we hear something like, I follow your column in Search Engine Land, or I follow you on social media, or something along those lines.
However, measuring more direct metrics can also be useful. Tracking how many social shares you get when you publish content is well worth doing. You can also use tools like Open Site Explorer, Majestic SEO , or ahrefs to track incoming links to your site / content.
These tools take a few weeks to catch up and detect the incoming links though. One other option is to use your analytics software to look at the new incoming referrers to your site – this is traffic coming from 3rd party sites. If you see a new site show up for the first time, it probably means that you just received a link from someone.
The important thing is to measure these things on an ongoing basis over time. Then, as you try different things to get more earned media coming in to your site, you can see what’s working and what’s not. Eric Enge, Stone Temple Consulting and author of The Art of SEO; @stonetemple
8. The main metric to evaluate the impact of my earned media is the organic and referral traffic I get to my website and blog.
All I do on all my channels has ultimately one goal: create visibility and awareness for my products and services. So the bottom line impact of everything I do on social media and with content has to impact one thing at the end of the day: how many people have visited my website?
Whether they search for my brand, a service my brand has to offer or someone told them to check what we have to say or sell. This is the reward, this is what I’ve earned so I don’t have to pay for it. Emeric Ernoult, Agorapulse; @EErnoult
9. The key ways to measure earned media would be equivalent impressions, media impact and influence on specific target audiences. Stephanie Fierman, MediaCom Worldwide; @StephFierman
10. The key earned media metrics for me:
- Web traffic – use Google Analytics to see if you gain more web traffic from new viewers and sources.
- Social media growth/engagement – Monitor social media interactions and follower growth.
- Lead generation – Did this grow your email list?
- Relationships built – Did you find new influencers for your brand?
11. The key metrics for earned media are:
- From an SEO standpoint: Number of backlinks and specifically domain authority (DA) of the referring websites.
- From a traffic standpoint: Number of new visitors to your website.
- From a list building and lead generation standpoint: Number of conversions into email subscribers (because this metric will eventually lead to sales).
12. Earned media metrics will differ based on each company’s goals. Are they looking to impact brand sentiment or drive awareness? Or are they looking to improve website metrics like pages visited and time on site?
Of course, sales and revenue are the ultimate goals, and with attribution modeling it should be possible to know which earned media pieces drove conversions. Kerry O’Shea Gorgone, MarketingProfs; @KerryGorgone
13. Most metrics for paid and owned media are defined by a goal — typically around B2B conversion. However, with earned media, things can be less predictable — so you often must track and measure as the coverage is happening or in retrospect.
The mere fact that a company receives earned media at all can be considered a success. But, ideally, you can track coverage to a desired outcome — such as leads, inquiries or purchases. Deana Goldasich, Well Planned Web, LLC; @Goldasich
14. Ultimately, everything should be tied back to its effect on business metrics but not all impressions or expressions should be weighted equally as an endorsement from an unpaid third party is much more valued than a paid advertisement.
There is most certainly an art and science to measurement of earned media, which combines fundamentals of PR measurement, media measurement and effects of attribution. Sarah Hofstetter, 360i; @Pezmeister1
15. When you’re looking at earned media, eyeballs are important, so the reach that a post or piece of content that has been shared is an important metric.
But there is a second factor that is often overlooked and that is who is engaging.The who is really important because these are the people who you will continue to build relationships with.
There is no magical ‘marketing clapper’ that you can with on when it suits you. As a marketer you need to be continually fostering the relationships of the fans who are creating content or sharing content you create. Kelly Hungerford, Paper.li; @KDHungerford
16. I’m not going to list them all, but I’ll list an important one:
- Earned from Paid, because it so significant in describing the true performance of your paid and owned media investments.
Max Kalehoff, Social Code; @MaxKalehoff
17. Shares is the killer metric. How many people shared the content with how many others. That’s my favorite metric because, while a ‘like’ is a pat on the back, a share is an endorsement. Doug Kessler, Velocity; @DougKessler
18. Since social media is often the vehicle for earned media to gain traction, I would start there: engagement, likes, shares, and comments.
Then look at what all that engagement spurred – was it increased traffic to your website? Leads? Unique new visitors?
Often times, you won’t know the exact effects of earned media until it plays out over a bit of time, but these are a few things to look out for to take the temperature of how successful your content became because of it. Arnie Kuenn, Vertical Measures and author of Content Marketing Works; @ArnieK
19. The harder metrics are more difficult to measure and so the industry uses proxies for success.
Earned media above all needs to be judged based on the overall positive influence against the target market(s). Even good econometric regression models have difficulty quantifying lift due to earned media.
A pet peeve of mine is the over-use of social media reach or “impression” numbers. Most social media impressions can’t even by the furthest stretch of the imagination be called an impression. Kevin Lee, Didit and author of Search Engine Advertising; @Kevin_Lee_QED
20. The key earned metrics are the ones that indicate business value of earned media to the brand.
First and foremost is sales, but there’s also brand sentiment, intent to purchase, shortening sales cycles/conversion, finding more leads, customer service and customer experience, etc.
Even showing a company in a favorable enough light that it’s easier to recruit and retain employees has bottom line value.
What’s meaningless – or near-meaningless – however overvalued by brands on social media are volume metrics. “Likes” and “shares” have no intrinsic value unless connected to real business results. Rebecca Lieb, author of Content Marketing; @Lieblink
- Website visits
- Forms completed
- Tweets and other social media posts sharing the owned media
- Phone calls, emails and any other outreach as a result of the earned media
These metrics are important because they demonstrate the impact of the earned media. It’s also important to note that earned media can’t be completely quantified.
Someone may have seen an article six months ago, call now but forget how she discovered you. One article may alone do nothing but once a person starts seeing your name multiple places that may lead to a phone call. You can’t attribute that to one article but to an overall campaign. Wendy Marx, Marx Communications; @WendyMarx
22. The most important metrics are sales and conversions.
But even before that, we weigh quality versus quantity of press coverage. Typically with quality coverage (right publication, right message, positive story, etc.), quality leads can be more accurately measured as well.
Additionally, earned media should tell the story accurately and leave the consumer with an emotional connection to the brand or product. One story told well is more valuable than twenty stories told poorly. Erin (Mack) McKelvey, SalientMG; @MackMcKelvey
23. My number one advice again is not to overcomplicate this stuff. The key to effectively measuring earned media is to have a hybrid dashboard that is shared between content, social and PR and aligned with the goals of each team.
A few metrics and tactics that I use in regards to measuring earned media are:
- Positive mentions and posts from influencers, customers, advocates, press etc. Don’t focus on the numbers per se, dive deeper into who these folks are and find ways to reward them.
- Build and influencer score card. A solid earned media strategy should have specific goals in place, as in which influencers or media outlets/ blogs do I want to share, mention or write about my content. Then build a simply bingo style card with the influencer (individuals, customers, press, blogs) and check them off when they do one of the following: share, mention, face to face meeting, link back, or write a post.
- Measure organic touch points across your marketing funnel/ customer journey by content source and channel. Once you figure out what’s working then it’s time to scale with paid advertising.
- Share of Voice and Share of Conversation are also helpful metrics when measuring the impact of earned media, just make sure you have enough mentions to actually be measured. Start with a benchmark then based on your content and engagement strategy measure the impact over 30/60/90 days. Are the percentages of SOV and SOC going up?
24. As a marketer, I look at earned media as the fruits of creating ideal conditions that lead to your clients value or content being shared and amplified. Advocates are willing to spread news of your clients value, while others see it as an opportunity to capitalize on your value or virality. Either can be considered a win.” Kevin Mullet, MarketSnare; @KMullett
25. Key earned media metrics are shares, favorites, +1s, Likes, comments. They are important because they demonstrate the human face and customer impact of content. B.L. Ochman, Maximum-Plus.com; @WhatsNext
26. I know this wasn’t asked for but impressions should be a dead statistic in PR and communications. At best, it’s a blind estimate of views based on total monthly publisher views.
What metrics are important? Verified Clicks/Unique Views and Social Shares. These are hard numbers to provide back to the brand and/or client. Larry Otsuka, Outbrain; @LOtsuka197
27. The main metric is ROI. If you are going to make a change to your business or your marketing to cause more earned media, you have to look at what it is costing you. Assuming you are generating more income than expenses, you are in a better boat. Neil Patel, Crazy Egg; @NeilPatel
28. Whatever drives traffic and attention or generates conversions, whatever a ‘conversion’ means to you – could be to sign up for a newsletter, to making a purchase online or prompting in-store visits.
Metrics have to be constantly evaluated. Google Analytics is free and does a spectacular job of showing which earned media generates the most attention by detailing the referral traffic generated by those properties.
With a little more knowledge about the tool it can be further focused to measure goals and even show you the trail someone took to get to your site (if it wasn’t direct traffic).
These views let you put marketing horsepower toward the channels that are making the most difference to your business, and keeps you from spending time and energy on the ones that aren’t moving the needle. Joel Richman, SHIFT Communications, @xylem
29. The key metrics will vary depending on why you’re trying to earn the media coverage to begin with.
The State Farm example is a good one. For them, it wasn’t only about the dollar equivalent of the media coverage they received (though that’s a good one), but it was also about the number of reduced claims (e.g. a cost metric).
Depending on whether you’re trying to draw more awareness, create more nurtured leads, build an audience, create a more loyal consumer or reduce customer service costs – all the metrics associated with those marketing objectives could be KPI’s for earned media. Robert Rose, Content Marketing Institute and author of Managing Content Marketing; @Robert_Rose (See Heidi Cohen’s interview with Robert Rose.)
30. The results that are important to measure are actions taken by the target audience as a result of seeing the media coverage, not the amount of, or length of, or the ad value of the media coverage. All of those are irrelevant if they don’t cause some action by the target audience.
That could include referrals from the article online to the client’s website, calls to the company’s salesforce, attendance at an event, signing of a petition, or other measurable actions. Also important to measure is the extent to which a company’s messaging was included in media coverage. Lucy Siegel, Bridge Global Strategies (a Didit Company); @BridgeGlobalPR
31. We consider new audiences on our social media pages as a key metric. We also believe when our audience shares our content, that we have done a good job. Jennifer Smith (@smithnyla), AriZona Beverages; @drinkarizona
32. While we started out measuring dozens of metrics, we learned that the most important earned media metrics boiled down to 3 points:
- Did we proactively initiate the story? (vs. respond to a media query)
- Did our spokesperson get quoted in the story?
- Did our spokesperson deliver the message and stay on message?
When the answer to all 3 of these questions was yes, the tone of Ameritech’s media coverage was highly positive. It’s not easy to do consistently in a Fortune 50 company with dozens of spokespersons. George Stenitzer, Crystal Clear Communications; @RiverWordGuy
33. The same as all other metrics that give you a clue that your message is getting any traction:
- Distribution: Did it go out?
- Exposure: Did it get displayed?
- Impression: Was it seen?
- Recall: Was it remembered?
- Response: Did they click/call/swipe/retweet?
- Attitude shift: Did they change their minds?
- Leads: Were they qualified?
- Sales: Did they buy?
- Profits: Did we make money?
- Loyalty: Did they purchase again?
- Life Time Value (LTV): Were they profitable in the long run?
- Advocacy: Did they tell their friends?
- Influencer: Did their friends do any of the above?
34. A company’s goals need to be firmly in place before establishing key earned media metrics. What is their target audience and what should they understand about the company? How will the client use that article placed in the Wall Street Journal to champion their business?
Traditionally placements from public relations were measured with advertising value equivalents which is outdated and doesn’t show the enhanced value that earned media has over paid advertising. It is important to measure the outcome of the public relations campaign in terms of its effect on business results. Nancy Tamosaitis-Thompson, Vorticom, Inc.; @Vorticom
35. In many cases, earned media can be difficult to measure, especially because it’s unpredictable – you simply can’t know how the public will react to certain ad campaigns, messaging, or contests.
Normally, an earned media campaign intends to increase awareness, and should be measured as such. Whether it’s aided/unaided awareness, number of shares and impressions, video views, or pageviews, metrics for direct sales or signups can be difficult to measure, as the content generated isn’t owned and can’t be tagged or traced. Eric T. Tung, BMC Software; @EricTTung
36. The key earned media metric we use at Strategic Objectives is MRP, a measurement tool developed by the Canadian Council of PR Firms, CCPRF. It is Canada’s universally accepted PR industry standard for earned media evaluation.
MRP sets an objective standard for measuring tone, coverage quality, impressions and cost per contact, and facilitates the creation of a comprehensive qualitative and quantitative report that proves measurable ROI for clients.
Sales directly trackable to earned media coverage are also key to measuring earned media ROI. However, this is only an effective measure if sales can be measured before and after an earned media campaign, when no other marketing pushes are concurrently underway. Deborah Weinstein, Strategic Objectives; @DebWeinstein
37. At the most basic level, the simplest way to understand the metrics around earned media presence are mentions – specifically those outside of owned channels. A good place to start might be listening for relevant comments on the internet that aren’t posted on the brand’s Facebook page and don’t appear on the official website.
For PR professionals and marketers alike, assigning some kind of value to such mentions can be helpful. For example, many brands are attempting to scale AVE (advertising value equivalency) to the web: how much would it have cost to secure X number of retweets via paid?
For the online publication that featured you, how much would it have cost for an ad placement on the site? By calculating the ‘equivalency’ of such earned mentions, brands can get closer to determining the ROI of their activity, and get closer to proving the value of their efforts. Joel Windels, Brandwatch; @LinkYeah
The bottom line is that marketers and PR professionals use a a wide range of earned media metrics.
The key to your earned media success is to ensure that the earned media metrics you define relate to achieving your business’s goals, namely generating leads and sales.
Which earned media metrics do you use and why?
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