The case for investing in earned media
Consumer attitudes have changed radically in recent years. People aren’t just becoming more sceptical of traditional push marketing tactics. They’re increasingly taking steps to avoid them altogether.
Ad blocker penetration has surged 20% since 2016 to 615 million users worldwide. Meanwhile, new research from YouGov suggests that three quarters of Brits don’t want marketers targeting them on social media.
“There are various degrees of suspicion and rejection towards the premise of targeted advertising,” notes Marketing Week columnist Mark Ritson. “The only reason we have not heard more from this large, dominant slice of the British population is that they had no idea what was going on.”
At the same time, consumers are changing the way they interact with the media. It’s becoming increasingly clear that earned media plays a vital role in driving lead generation and building consumer trust.
Consumers are shunning traditional marketing channels
Thanks to comparison sites, online reviews, news articles and more, consumers today are far better informed than they were even 10 years ago.
Historically, if you were buying a car you would have had to rely on the messages in TV ads, printed in brochures or delivered by forecourt salesmen. But now, you can find everything you need freely online.
As a result, paid and owned media channels have less control over a brand’s message. So communicators need to find new ways to reach their audiences, using mediums consumers know and trust. It’s more important than ever for brands to be part of the conversation early. Those that don’t leverage the press, social media and influencers risk seeing their brand value erode over time.
Company decision makers are also hungry for earned media content, according to research from publishing company Raconteur.
Its survey of 500 European C-suites found that half of executives are likely to read content from a recognised expert – while 47% look for content that’s recommended by an influential figure in their industry.
“Your ability to cut through comes down to credibility,” says Raconteur CEO Freddie Ossberg. “Partnerships, respected influencers and exclusive research offer great ways to demonstrate your expertise.
“When done right, these types of partnership result in credible content which creates a halo effect for your entire brand.”
Earned media coverage and pull marketing generate trust
Research from leading advisory firm Outsell confirms that senior marketers and CMOs prefer “pull marketing” methods. These methods let people opt in when they are ready to engage with a product or service. A survey of over 1,500 industry professionals showed that B2B and B2C marketers now believe pull tactics, such as earned media and PR, are more effective than print, TV and native advertising.
The same study showed that consumers find “push marketing” tactics like email intrusive. People want to seek out information when they’re interested in products or services. They don’t want to hear about them if they’re not.
The most trusted methods also tend to be the most effective. Users prefer experiences they can opt into – such as hearing expert speakers, reading news articles and viewing testimonials.
All this ties into the idea that modern consumers are actively seeking out information from trusted sources to inform their buying decisions.
Marketing execs are embracing earned media
As consumer attitudes towards the media change, communicators are seeing their share of the marketing budget increase.
Three quarters of companies plan to increase their PR spend in the coming years, according to the latest research from the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) and the USC Centre for Public Relations.
“Public relations as a discipline is clearly evolving and becoming more important to marketers,” says ANA group executive VP Bill Duggan. “Digital has put PR front and centre, as it allows immediate outbound communication and inbound feedback.”
This reflects the changes in consumer behaviour highlighted above. Customers are seeking information from trusted sources like news articles, experts and influencers, while marketers are keen to create the content their customers want to consume.
That means your comms team is now in a unique position to influence consumer behaviour. But – as Cision’s latest white paper reveals – technology must play a key role in your campaigns if they are to realise their full potential.
Download Why it’s time for CMOs to embrace PR and comms today to discover how the latest technology is helping brands across the globe make the case for greater investment in PR and comms.