How Earned Media can supercharge your marketing strategy

I always ask our clients to think of paid media last. I appreciate that can seem an odd starting point for an agency that are experts in planning and buying media.

Don’t get me wrong, Paid media executed brilliantly, with a keen eye on performance, is an essential for any CMO to deliver growth for their business. However, to leverage every resource across the communications eco-system, it pays to think about your media as Owned Earned Shared Paid (OESP), specifically in that order, to maximise performance.

These terms often get overused, so to clarify our approach:

  • Owned Media: Media that you have editorial control over (your website, or social channels). It may cost money to create the content for these platforms, but the decision to place it is yours. This is the starting point.
  • Earned Media: Third parties advocating for your brand (such as fans, customers, journalists, or reviewers).
  • Shared Media: Other advertisers you can partner with to achieve mutually beneficial goals.
  • Paid Media: Paid is the last thing we turn to, because here Paid can work it’s hardest, either amplifying the best parts of Owned Earned and Shared or filling in the gaps those touchpoints cannot reach on their own.

Of the four, Earned is the most nebulous concept, given its happening outside of your direct control. However, if harnessed correctly, it can supercharge your marketing mix.

To look at this in greater detail, I had a chat with Joe Wade, the founder of creative agency Don’t Panic.  Don’t Panic have a really interesting creative process, assessing every idea for its ability to drive Earned engagement. This puts us philosophically on the same page, so I was keen to delve into the topic with Joe, and we had a really interesting chat…

Reflecting on our conversation, it highlighted several key considerations to give the best chance of success with Earned media. Here are five starter considerations:

Observe current behaviours and align with them – What is going on in popular culture? What are your audience interacting with on their phones? What sort of content are they watching on YouTube and TikTok? From this derive ways of speaking and behaving that mirror things your audience are into to maximise relevancy.

Consider how you can drive Behaviour Change – People are more likely to engage with you if you are connecting in a way that helps that person achieve their own goals and ambitions. How can you activate that to drive engagement?

How can you utilise every single touchpoint? To use the old cliché this can deliver ‘a sum greater than the parts’, if every part of your public facing interactions ladders up to the same message. For example, Just Eat launched their award winning Don’t Cook Just Eat campaign by showcasing their new add to all the staff who man their call centres at a premiere screening event. They also changed every employee’s email signature to become “[job title] & anti-cooking activist”. The former primed several hundred people to be proud of their company and talk to family and friends, whilst the latter turned a tiny, everyday part of company communications into a campaign connected touchpoint.

Better understand and utilise the relationship between creative, media and PR – Better synchronisation of PR needs, requirements, and timings with paid activations can maximise the impact of both. It’s a concurrent theme in conversations with PR professionals that they are brought into a campaign planning too late when there’s little they can add. Working to their timelines, synchronising activations and sharing assets can benefit all disciplines, and the client will reap the rewards.

Borrow behaviours from other categories – Identify what behaviours you can steal from other categories to help your communications disrupt and stand out in your own sector.

With lockdown easing, the pandemic and its impact on the economy is on everyone’s minds. With marketing budgets under unprecedented pressure, and the need to cut through never higher, the need to maximise campaign performance is absolutely critical. Harnessing every single touchpoint available to you, effectively utilising Earned media engagement, and maximising every single paid media pound you spend will be the difference maker to those that succeed.

By Rik Moore, Head of Insight, Planning & Strategy