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Made to measure: Evaluating earned media

Whether it’s used to drive brand awareness, influence commentary or spur sales, earned media can be a powerful tool to drive business growth.

However, measuring the value and contribution of earned media, or ‘publicity’ or ‘media coverage’ as some like to term it, is often seen as a challenge to organisations.

Before looking at the measurement tools available, it’s important to understand the bigger picture of earned media to fully understand its value.

Ultimately, coverage in reputable traditional and online media helps to promote and support brands, and in some situations even defend them. It helps to foster an awareness and appreciation of your people, your products and services, and your points of difference.

A core part of the value of earned media is the implied third party endorsement given to your brand by the journalist and media outlet. After all, of all the organisations they could have focused on, they have chosen yours because presumably they found it to be newsworthy enough.
However, the impact of earned media can take time to materialise.

Some of the best media relations campaigns have involved continually drip-feeding newsworthy content to relevant media outlets over a period of weeks, months and even years. With each media article, your audiences are becoming more and more familiar with your brand and your expertise.

So how do you measure earned media?

A conventional tool for measuring the value of earned media is to calculate the Equivalent Advertising Value (EAV).

An EAV is calculated by comparing how much that media article would cost if it was an ad, particularly focused on the media outlet, its audience and the scale of coverage. A multiplier is usually applied as earned media is deemed more valuable than paid advertising because audiences engage with media outlets for their content.
Some clients like EAV as it is a simple and quantitative tool that produces a reportable dollar figure.

However, there are other measures to consider that provide a greater understanding of the value of earned media.

For traditional and online media coverage, an analysis of the tone of the media piece, the repetition of your organisation’s key messages, and your organisation’s share of voice can provide additional insights.
Online media coverage is blessed with added metrics, including website traffic and social media shares, likes and mentions.

Some organisations develop other internal mechanisms to track the impact of earned media, such as surveys to understand how stakeholders came to know of and engage with the brand.
Sadly, even with this array of individual measures, many find it a challenge to pinpoint the exact value of earned media.

Despite this, governments, organisations and individuals know intrinsically that getting their brand and their messaging in front of stakeholders via earned media on a regular basis is critical to their success.