As marketers, we’re often obsessed with numbers, but that’s a good thing! Real, concrete numbers show us the value that marketing strategies bring to the client’s bottom line. At the end of the day, leads and revenue attributed to those leads are the most important numbers. But the sales funnel is a place where the action takes time to convert into attributable results.
An article could pique a prospect’s interest today, but the revenue attributable to it (from a client project), might not come for another 6 months. How do we measure success in the meantime? There are a number of lead metrics you could pick. But we’ve found that Earned Media Value (EMV) consistently gives our clients a ground-truth understanding of how well their marketing strategy is playing out.
EMV’s great because it represents digital marketing efforts - which are inherently difficult to quantify - in terms of more conventional success metrics. In this piece, we’ll take a deep dive into some of the key discussion points around EMV, to understand why it makes sense to use it as a metric to measure your marketing efforts.
Let’s dive in, understand the concept of EMV in detail, then learn how you can use EMV to benchmark the effectiveness of your marketing efforts.
What is EMV?
This is the centre question here. I hate giving textbook definitions so we’re going to keep things simple. Imagine you’re IKEA. All the cute furniture ads about your products on online and offline platforms are what we call owned media. You can also create content about your products, services, or any other related aspect and post these on your social channels. That’s also owned media. It’s called this because you own those channels. The key here is that, in both these cases, you control the message because you initiated it.
Now, if someone bought a product from IKEA and loved it, let’s say they posted a glowing review on their blog: that’s what we call Earned Media. It’s earned because, well, you earned it by having an awesome product or idea. If that didn't make sense, here’s a slightly different way to look at it: think about earned media as the word-of-mouth of digital marketing.
Getting reviewed on a media platform, people sharing your content on social media, or someone linking to your product on a listicle - all of this counts as earned media. In the case of influencer marketing, things get a bit trickier because you are paying for the mention. But even then, at the end of the day, earned media mentions. The more people talk about you and your brand, the more they write about you, Tweet you, and upload cheesy “product haul” videos, the more EMV you earn.
What Goes Into EMV?
EMV is a composite of a number of different metrics. It combines efforts and mentions, and traction across channels into a single consolidated metric. To vastly oversimplify, EMV takes multiple earned media metrics, then calculates an equivalent dollar value in terms of paid advertising: how much money would you have had to spend on conventional ads to get the benefits of your earned media presence?
Let’s take a look at some of the major channels to better understand what actually goes into EMV as a number.
- Social media and EMV
- Influencer marketing and EMV
- Blog content and EMV
- Referrals and EMV
Social Media and EMV
Our engagement numbers are a great starting point to understand your social media EMV. How many times has your content been shared by your target audience or influencers within your community? Measuring possible impressions from these shares is just as important.
EMV data can be gleaned by using social media listening tools. Sentiment analysis will help you dig deeper and understand the general sentiment in these mentions. Just because people are talking about your brand doesn’t mean they’re saying nice things: by identifying the proportion of positive and negative mentions, sentiment analysis helps you clearly understand the mentions better. Both total social engagement and social sentiment can factor into your EMV calculation.
Influencer Marketing and EMV
Influencer marketing is one of the best channels for earned media mentions. If you’re trying to build a brand identity, the gatekeepers out there - influencers, bloggers, and other industry thought leaders can generation lots of brand mentions and attention just by talking about your product or brand. Your marketing strategy should involve engaging with these influencers.
If you are paying the influencers to increase awareness and reach, the media mentions that you are device from them will become a part of your EMV calculations. Even if you pay influencers to promote your brand, their interaction with followers is organic.
On a related note, coverage you build by working with media outlets also factors in EMV calculations. Journalists and press outlets have a lot in common with influencers: they have established, trusting user bases who make purchase decisions based on their input. Working with media outlets, building relationships with publications and with individual journalists, can help to organically increase interest in your brand: this can be a great source of EMV all by itself.
Blog Content and EMV
Blog content is another great way to earn brand mentions. When building out your content strategy, remember to be solution-oriented. When you write solution-oriented content, you’re actually starting a conversation by building trust and showcase your expertise.
Prospects tend to share and promote content that was actually of use to them. EMV calculations include blog mentions and backlinks because they showcase your prospects’ trust in your expertise and how your solutions are relevant to the challenges they face.
Referrals and EMV
Referrals are great! A solid client referral is one of the best endorsements your brand or product can receive. Referrals work better than most other brand mentions because they tend to be responses to questions from high purchase intent prospects: people ask for referrals when they want to actually make a purchase and want social proof. Your brand evangelists, the clients who love what you do and promote your solutions because they genuinely believe in them, are one of your greatest strengths and when calculating EMV. Total referral volume might not be super high, but most EMV calculations give each referral a relatively higher weightage.
Mentions in other blogs are a related form of brand mention too. The reach and prestige of the blog determine the value you attach to the mentions. It is probably a good idea to develop a relationship with some of the prominent bloggers in the industry who are influencers in their own right. A mention from them carries a lot of weight and credibility.
It’s great that people are talking about your brand, but why is EMV important as a measure of success? For starters, earned media organically grows your visibility: you’re reaching audiences and a pool of prospects who’d otherwise never have heard about you: by increasing the total pool of prospects, you’ll increase conversions even if the conversion rate stays the same. EMV puts the focus on earned media, making it a greater priority.
But why is it important as a metric? For marketers, the most important reason is that EMV helps justify your digital marketing spend. It’s important to remember here that digital marketing is still (relatively) young, at least compared to traditional channels like ads. “How is this better than my regular marketing campaign? Yeah, we need digital, but why should we budget this much?” These are common client objections when you throw out a number for digital marketing spend. The best way to overcome these objections is to show clients that digital marketing really is that much better, by directly comparing it to traditional ad spend. This is what EMV does.
Earned media almost always offers significantly higher ROI than paid ads. Successful influencer marketing campaigns, for instance, deliver a nearly 600 percent ROI. An EMV estimate before a campaign kicks off, and EMV reports during a campaign will demonstrate to clients exactly how much they’re saving - and how much more business they’re gaining - by leveraging digital. EMV helps clients understand your value as a partner and the value of digital marketing as a key pillar in their overall outreach.
There Are Drawbacks, Too
Now it’s time for the other side of the story. EMV’s great, but actually calculating it can be tough. Here’s the biggest problem: how do you attach an arbitrary value to a media mention? What’s the dollar equivalent to a five-star review on a DR65 website? This’ll vary substantially, depending on your niche, client demographics, and many other factors. What matters is clearly communicating your EMV estimate to the client and agreeing on the specific metrics. You need to avoid the temptation of using an arbitrary (and positive) EMV multiplier, just because it makes your digital strategy look more enticing.
It’s also important to understand that EMV doesn’t tell you the entire story. Let’s assume your client was mentioned three times in prominent media outlets last month. In isolation, you have no way of measuring whether this is good, bad, or ugly. Knowing the month-on-month change, the number of times your competitors were mentioned, publication market share, and other factors, is key to building a clearer picture of your success story.
One of the best ways to deal with this problem is by attaching certain tangible KPIs to your EMV. Having conversion goals is a great way to make EMV a useful measure. This helps you separate and focus on the earned media that’s actually driving conversions from awareness generation.
Earned Media Value is a great way to track the progress and impact of your marketing strategy. EMVs give you a tangible measure in terms of cost savings and audience reach. By combining EMV metrics with monthly conversion goals, you can build out digital marketing campaigns that are directly attributable to client success. When it’s review time and the client Zooms in and asks “What did you guys actually do?” you’ll have your answer.
Thank you so much for reading What is Earned Media Value? How to use EMV to set and achieve marketing goals . We really appreciate it! If you have any questions about our article, or can suggest any other topics you think we should explore, feel free to let us know.
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Robb Fahrion is a Co-Founder and Partner of Flying V Group. He is passionate about helping businesses grow using the power of the internet. Robb graduated from Chapman University in Orange, CA and currently resides in Costa Mesa, CA. Robb enjoys writing about digital marketing, helping his clients turn their dreams into reality, and he is a HUGE Mike Trout fan.