Explaining Earned Media Value: What It Is and How to Measure It

Vanity metric or meaningful insight? This quick guide explaining earned media value (EMV) shows you how to calculate and decipher EMV.

Aana Leech
min read
Explaining Earned Media Value: What It Is and How to Measure It
Table of contents:

Word of mouth is invaluable for a brand, whether it’s a social media mention, a glowing customer review, or a news segment. But assigning a value to earned media, a type of word of mouth marketing, isn’t so straightforward. Earned media refers to any content that mentions your brand that you didn’t pay for, commission, or distribute from your company’s owned media channels (like your blog or Twitter). Earned media value (EMV) is a metric that marketers use to assign a dollar amount to that earned publicity and understand which of their PR and marketing efforts are delivering a good ROI. As you’ll see in this article, calculating and deciphering EMV is tricky at best — so much so that some marketers call it a “vanity metric.” However, earned media isn’t going away, and neither is the desire to track it. Below, we’ll dive into the benefits of earned media, how to calculate earned media value, and tactics to “earn” earned media below.

Is earned media still effective?

When it comes to buyer decisions and brand awareness, word of mouth is king. You may have already come across the widely shared Nielsen statistic from 2012 revealing that 92% of people trust recommendations from friends and family over all types of advertising. More recent data from HubSpot shows that friends and family are still the number one source for consumers to discover and decide on new products or companies. In addition, 79% of consumers say they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations from friends or family. In other words, the more that brands align themselves with less biased sources and third-party channels, the more likely consumers are to engage with and promote them. Today’s buyers crave authenticity and transparency above all. Some additional examples of earned media are:

  • A customer’s Facebook post
  • Customer reviews
  • Influencer marketing campaigns (Unpaid)
  • Website mentions (Like a software marketplace)
  • A post from another company or blogger
  • A news story
  • A podcast feature
  • Organic web traffic

This is in contrast to the other types of media: paid media, such as pay-per-click (PPC) ads or commissioned influencer posts, and owned media, like the company website or YouTube channel.Although brands don’t originate earned media, they can interact with or amplify it, such as replying to a fan’s request for free Wendy’s nuggets for a year, and see even better engagement.

How do you calculate earned media value?

First, let’s acknowledge a fact: It’s difficult to accurately measure earned media value. The main reason is that the variables used to calculate EMV are nuanced and don’t necessarily tell the full story of audience engagement. Before we go over the formula, it’s helpful to examine the three variables that are typically used to calculate EMV:

  • A reach or engagement metric: Such as impressions, likes, clicks, follower count, etc.
  • A cost metric: Such as Cost Per Thousand (represented by “CPM” because it comes from Cost Per “Mille,” which is “thousand” in Latin). CPM is how much you’d pay to receive 1,000 impressions on a given campaign. For example, if your brand “earned” a popular, fan-created TikTok video, how much would a paid TikTok ad have cost?
  • Another relevant metric: Such as another engagement metric or relevant KPI for your brand.

So in most cases, the earned media value formula looks like this: Earned Media Value = Impressions x Cost Per Thousand x [Relevant Metric]Depending on what you input, the standard EMV formula can be misleading. For instance, a high number of impressions doesn’t clue marketers into whether the impressions are from bots or humans. Another consideration is that all earned media isn’t good earned media. Millions of impressions on a negative news story or corporate scandal don’t do a brand any favors. And because marketers may or may not add in their own relevant metric, EMV is highly subjective, making it hard to come up with EMV benchmarks by industry or media channel. That said, you can still learn a lot from a campaign’s earned media value. Just be sure to dig deep into the results and examine the variables you’re using. Finally, raw engagement data may be easier to track and offer more insights into how often the public and the press are mentioning your brand. Some modern marketing platforms and social listening tools tackle this problem by offering features to track value per metric (such as $.05 per click on Instagram) and estimate value of each piece of earned content. From Popular Pays, for example, makes it easy to track all your influencer marketing campaigns in one place.  

How do you earn “earned media”?

Earned media helps your brand build credibility, reach a larger audience, and can generate a better ROI than paid or owned media. Although this type of publicity is technically free and created by third parties, you’ll still have to invest time and resources into making your customers happy, building relationships with the press, and creating share-worthy content. Below, we’ll go over best practices to generate earned media.

Social media mentions

  • Use community-building strategies to connect with your customers on a deeper level and earn passionate, enthusiastic social shares.
  • Promote user-generated content around your product or service, and create hashtags that your customers can get in on.
  • Add social share buttons to your social media posts, blog content, emails, and more so people can spread the word in a few clicks.

Media coverage

  • Create and send press releases. Take time to come up with an eye-catching headline, a strong angle, and rich details to stand out with media outlets.
  • Do something newsworthy, such as Coca-Cola’s “Share a Coke” stunt or the Red Bull Stratos jump.
  • Tap brand representatives to be featured on popular TV news shows, podcasts, radio stations, and more.

Positive reviews

  • Of course, have a stellar product with excellent customer service, and set up channels where customers can easily leave reviews and testimonials.
  • Ask for honest reviews and, if needed, incentivize them with coupons, discounts, gifts, and more.
  • Keep your reviews fresh — 73% of consumers only pay attention to reviews written in the last month, according to BrightLocal.

Influencer mentions  

  • Build brand awareness online using social media and content marketing best practices to organically attract influencer mentions.
  • Use an influencer marketing search tool (like From Popular Pays) to find standouts in your vertical and see if your brand is already being mentioned.

Organic web traffic

  • Use Search Engine Optimization (SEO) best practices to rank higher in search engine results and increase brand visibility.
  • Publish unique content and have an in-depth distribution strategy. Bring something to the table that your brand’s competitors don’t, such as expert interviews or original data.

The bottom line

As any good marketer knows, metrics are the backbone of successful campaigns. Measuring earned media value isn’t yet a perfect science, but it’s worth knowing. Ultimately, it may take a few different marketing tools and some trial and error to tie cost and value to your earned media, but it’s a small price to pay to understand this marketing asset.

Aana Leech
Aana is the former Head of Product Brands of Popular Pays

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