Is earned media value (EMV) really valuable?
Earned media value is one of those calculations that helps prove the value of the work marketers and PR professionals do. But is it as viable as it once was, and does it truly demonstrate the impact of your marketing and PR efforts? Let’s take a look…
What is earned media value?
Earned media value (EMV) is a method to calculate the importance of branded content gained through marketing or PR efforts, that is not paid media (not advertising) and not from owned (didn’t come from your media channels). This includes blogs, referrals, social posts, influencer marketing, reviews, and more.
It can be a useful formula used to calculate your brands earned media (literally, your online word of mouth). But it has its pitfalls too. Any formula can be manipulated to justify the means, and EMV is no exception. To prove real success, you should never use it alone, but as part of an effective measuring and reporting strategy.
Are people falling out of love with earned media value? - Online mentions of EMV are pretty consistent, but the sentiment behind it is wavering.
How to calculate earned media value
The first question is, how to measure earned media value? Much like advertising value equivalency (AVEs - another potentially misleading metrics), EMV is an attempt to provide a formulaic method of calculating your digital marketing strategy impact, by comparing it to similar media outreach.
The typical earned media value formula usually includes:
- A reach metric. Whether that’s potential audience, number of followers, impressions.
- Multiplied by an equivalent cost per thousand - so if you were measuring the reach of a Facebook campaign for example, you would use the cost per thousand you’d expect from Facebook paid advertising).
- Multiplied by another factor depending on the use-case or person doing the conversion, to help align the results with the brand needs.
Here you can start to see the problems.
“Vanity metric voodoo”
“Earned media value (EMV) is one of those abstract marketing concepts that employs its own special form of vanity metric voodoo.”
Jeff Ernst - CEO & President, Symec - writing on CMO.com
The issue with these earned media value equations, is that they rely on a lot of vanity metrics. Each of the above could help lead to misleading results -
- Potential reach/impressions. This isn’t always the number of social media users that have seen your message. Just the people who may have done. We all know how we scroll through our social networks, and how quick those ads come and go. Did that impression really make a difference? Did a follower really see that post? If no, then how does that impact your brand?
- CPM equivalent. With this, you’re comparing one value against another. It’s apples and oranges. Earned media works very different to advertising. 84% of millennials don’t trust advertising. Yet, coincidentally 84% of consumers trust peer recommendations above all other sources of advertising. By comparing the EMV of recommendations to ads on the same platform, you could actually be undervaluing your efforts.
- Other factorials. And here’s where the distrust can come in. By adding in extra numbers, you risk massaging the figures to help demonstrate success without actually providing value to your company. It also makes it difficult to compare your different campaigns, if you use different factors across channels or regions.
Are EMVs worthless?
Not at all. It’s great for giving you a general overview of your marketing, PR and media strategy efforts. But it isn’t very data mature.
Let me explain. Data maturity is all about aligning your data across your company to ensure all your efforts are leading to one main goal - typically, the success of the company.
EMVs are more of a stop gap. Yes, they can help measure your media mentions, but they don’t demonstrate impact. How did those results lead to sales, growth and success.
So, I’m not saying to not use EMVs. But instead, saying that you should dig deeper into the data, and combine them with other metrics so you actually can prove the value of your marketing efforts.
So, how do you calculate the value of earned media?
Simply use other metrics to define your success. Our metrics to monitor to define success eBook collates the data you should be monitoring, to help you prove how your efforts are going. As a teaser, here are some alternatives to incorporate into your measurement strategy:-
To counteract the risk that potential reach could potentially have, you should incorporate engagement metrics to help you understand how valuable a piece is.
Content that reaches a smaller, more engaged audience is much more valuable than content than reaches more people who are less engaged, so engagement metrics matter at this level.
It may not correlate directly with sales, but by measuring your engagement on a regular basis (and against your competitors), you can see more clearly how effective your strategy is working, and identify elements that you can replicate across the board.
Sentiment should also be incorporated into your monitoring where possible. Consider a content piece created by a third party, that’s shared fairly widely. Using a basic earned media value formula, you could see that as pretty valuable.
But what if it’s a negative review. One that could potentially damage your brand?
The EMV doesn’t factor this into its equation. And since negative sentiment can directly impact sales (and inversely, we can assume positive sentiment would too), it’s a metric that is more mature, and more valuable when it comes to reporting the impact of your efforts.
By looking at the sentiment spikes, you can quickly see if something is driving positive EMV or is actually detrimental to your brand.
Share of voice (SOV)
EMV gives you an idea about how many people are talking about your brand, but without setting a benchmark to see how that compares to your industry.
By adding share of voice into your mix, you can see how many mentions your brand is driving, and how that compares with your competitors.
For example, you could gain a mention on a popular blog, giving you a high earned media value. But if your competitors had the same luck at the same time, but with 3 times as many pieces, your message could be less valuable than you perceive. SOV helps you benchmark these levels.
And again, share of voice can directly be linked to market share, as per a case study from Millward Brown. Meaning it is a more mature metric, demonstrating the true impact of your marketing.
You need to assess how your competitors are performing to decide if your EMV is adding value to your business. Or just getting lost.
And there’s more…
When it comes to earned media value, it’s up to you whether you should measure it or not. There’s a time and a place that it shows its value, but there are better metrics out there that can be used to measure your results.
And demonstrate the impact of your efforts to your C-suite.
We’ve looked into the most valuable metrics to measure, with input from global analytics experts & PR professionals, to help you get the most from your monitoring efforts. Make sure you download it now.