Here’s How to Accurately Measure the ROI of Earned Campaigns

Jun 28, 2022 | Earned Media & PR Measurement

Most people think of social media as a place to connect with loved ones and those with like-minded interests. But social media is also essential for brands looking to connect with their audience in a meaningful way. According to Hootsuite, social media is on track to account for 33% of all marketing efforts this year with a spend eclipsing $130 billion—and only expected to go up from here.

For those unfamiliar, earned media is the organic promotion of your brand across a variety of channels. Social media is a critical pillar to your earned media program, acting as a platform to create conversations around your brand, product or service. But measuring the ROI of your earned media efforts across social platforms is difficult. Most marketers go about this in the wrong way, using social listening tools. And while social listening tools are great for tracking brand sentiment and trending topics, it’s not going to accurately measure the revenue impact of organic social promotion.

Earned Media Tracking: A Brief History
With new and emerging technologies, the way that marketers conduct and measure their earned media campaigns is constantly evolving. Many marketers these days deal primarily with digital campaigns—but it wasn’t too long ago that public relations was the essence of earned media, and laid the foundation for how we track all organic campaigns today. PR firm Walker Sands highlights key areas tracked to measure the success of a PR campaign:

  • Press clippings
  • Media impressions 
  • Lead sourcing
  • Market surveys
  • Content analysis (quantity and sentiment)

Since tracking all of the above is a daunting task, there are some pretty sophisticated offerings on the market today to assist. Some of the big names include Cision, TalkWalker, and Meltwater. Their platforms provide an aggregate view of all media mentions (print, digital, and social) as well as the sentiments around them so that you can understand the reach and impact of your campaigns. However, what they cannot do, is identify the real audiences consuming a brand’s earned media content at scale. 

The Problem: Identifying Brand Perception and Revenue Impact of Earned Media 
The above methodology is a solid baseline for how to get a sense of campaign impact, but it won’t provide concrete numbers around which audience members across channels were actually exposed. All it really does is provide a glimpse into the audience make-up of the various outlets—from there it’s all “guesstimation” largely based on cookie tracking. 

Another method frequently used by marketers is running pre and post campaign surveys toward their relevant market to measure brand lift, but there’s no way to know if the individuals were actually exposed to the earned media content in question. Alternatively, some teams may choose to ‘force expose’ respondents to their content prior to initiating a survey to evaluate opinions around how the content was received–  but this doesn’t measure organic exposure or if the message stuck out to the individual days or weeks after a campaign. 

The third—and arguably most common—way of trying to get a sense of impact is through social listening tools. As we touched on above, this method is great for seeing the chatter around your brand, but there’s no way to determine the revenue impact.

The Solution: The Identification of Exposed & Engaged Audiences
Understanding the revenue impact of your earned media efforts across social channels is challenging. But when achieved, it provides a deeper understanding of how effective your campaign was across all media channels. This is because media outlets commonly promote high impact stories on their social channels and even through influencer partners. Understanding the social impact helps you to gauge the total impact of your campaign.

Social audience insights platforms like Silhouette™ allow brands to identify exposed and engaged social audiences that can then be matched to an associated personal identifier (PII) (i.e. hashed email, phone number, zip code). This audience data can then be overlaid with 1st or 3rd party purchase data to identify sales impact pre and post earned media coverage. This is a gamechanger in terms of social attribution, and has already helped many brands accurately tie revenue to their earned social coverage.

Alternatively, marcoms can use that same exposed and engaged audience to deploy surveys and understand brand impact, or identify purchases that were made as a result of the earned media coverage. 

Case Study: Example of Social Mapping In Action
The use cases for being able to map social identities are endless, but here’s one quick example for you:

A popular petcare brand landed in hot water after their product was reported as harmful to pets and children. The company’s PR firm partnered with StatSocial to understand the impact their counter messaging and tactics had on brand reputation and sentiment:

Using StatSocial’s premiere social audience insights platform Silhouette, the PR agency was able to get an aggregate view of the audience exposed to the new positioning around their product’s safety. From there, they took the following actions:

  • Deployed surveys to exposed audience members 
  • Deployed surveys to a control sample 
  • Compared the responses from those exposed to those in the control audience to determine any brand lift associated with their new campaigns
  • Appended social affinity data to identify the unique attributes of those who responded well, or poorly, to their updated messaging

In the end, the team was able to quickly understand how well their response to negative press was able to repair damage to their public image.

Final Thoughts: Deriving More From Earned Media
While you technically don’t pay for earned media, there is certainly a cost associated with it, whether good or bad. Being able to measure the coverage your brand receives provides valuable insights that will help refine your strategy and optimize for future growth. If you’re looking to learn more about how social audience insights can help you determine the impact of your earned media campaigns, let’s chat


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