What can the record industry teach us about utilising “earned media”?

What can the record industry teach us about utilising “earned media”?

Many organisations now classify their marketing efforts into the categories of “owned, bought and earned media” – especially when focusing on interactive marketing strategies.

So, what do we mean by “owned, bought and earned media”? Although often used to define the digital end of the marketing spectrum, these terms were actually rooted in traditional media.

Put simply, owned media is any communication channel that a brand fully owns and controls. Traditionally this would include packaging, logo, retail outlets, uniforms, signage etc. With new media: websites, mobile sites, twitter accounts, LinkedIn profiles, product games etc, are all examples of owned media that need to be carefully managed.

Paid media on the other hand has its roots in TV, Radio, Press, Outdoor advertising, sponsorship etc. And while a lot of new media versions are similar – banner advertising, pop-ups, video clips, sponsorship etc, we also have activities such as product placement in gaming and paid-for search content.

However earned media is where things start to get really interesting! Traditionally earned media referred to editorial that the brand generated. So while a press release might be “owned” the coverage it generated was “earned” and this coverage could be measured through calculating its advertising equivalent.

Social Media has dramatically changed the earned media space, which can include: SEO, blogs, opinions, comments, user ratings and other user generated content created on the internet. The great advantage of earned media in the digital world is that consumers do your PR for you with news, content and opinion disseminated very quickly through such a range of channels. Not only do you get greatly enhanced PR, but also because so much social media is interactive, WOM (Word of Mouth) forms a very important subset of your earned media coverage in the form of comments, recommendations, reviews etc.

Studies have shown that consumers are influenced more by word of mouth and the opinion of their peers than they are by advertising. However the great intangible element of earned media was in trying to measure how much WOM or Buzz it generated.

Digital WOM is no longer intangible, web listening reports and dashboards can help you evaluate the effectiveness of your earned media strategy. How you use the information you harvest is of course critical to future success, as is how you integrate your earned media strategy into your owned and bought media.

It’s also worth pointing out that just because earned media isn’t bought, it doesn’t mean to say it’s “free”. Trying to manage and interact with your earned media takes a lot of time and resource because although you can influence it you cannot control it.

However marketers are waking up to the notion that losing some control of the brand is worth the sacrifice in order to gain positive coverage  within their earned media space.

The music industry is an interesting case in point, as it has had to adapt hugely to changes in technology. The owned media real estate of the records themselves such as CDs (remember gatefold albums anyone?) has lost out to downloads as the preferred purchase format. However, opportunities in developing earned media presence have grown enormously.

UK band The Kaiser Chiefs (with a little help from ad agency Wieden and Kennedy) could well be leading the way in a new concept in product creation; one that will undoubtedly be a smash hit in earned media.

The business model for their latest album “The Future is Medieval” is very interesting. Fans are invited to the album website where they select the tracks they prefer (10 songs out of a choice of 20) and design their own album cover artwork, which they then pay £7.50 to download. These creations are then stored online for other fans to browse and purchase. There is a sell-on commission of £1 for each extra album sold, so there is plenty of incentive for fans to get creative. Click here to play

The old “owned media” of an album has changed to create buzz in earned media. So far, one of the top selling versions of the album is by Radio One DJ - Chris Moyles, which again creates further coverage and positive WOM.

This approach could easily be applied to other sectors, where customers are able to personalise products and services online. It makes the buying process more immersive and creates positive momentum within earned media as people enjoy sharing the experience.

Not only can you now measure the results of positive WOM online, but also tie in the experience with your own online communities, where you can stimulate co-creation among customers, generate feedback and discussion. As ever the digital world continues to provide new opportunities for engaging with consumers, and new ways to measure and improve upon success.

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