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Blogs  / August 3, 2021

Setting the right earned media objectives for your brand

by Greg D'Andrea, Senior Director, Customer Success & Insights

Earned media content is king when it comes to building brand reputation—your biggest brand asset. And while in the past there have always been clearer metrics around paid and owned media than earned media, that’s changed with the industry shift from print to digital formats, which has resulted in a wealth of digital data.

The technology to measure the business impact of communications on a company’s bottom line is now readily available, providing communicators with ample opportunities to develop data-driven PR strategies.

Overall, 78% of PR pros measure their communications effectiveness.* And communicators are also more satisfied with their measurement efforts—41% say they are satisfied with their efforts this year, compared to 28% in 2020.

Historically, communicators have been focused on storytelling, media relations, crisis communications and other obvious aspects of the PR craft. However, today they must also embrace data and measurement to develop effective strategies and transform the perception of communications from a cost center into a revenue-generating function. 

In this 4-part blog series, we’d like to introduce our new ultimate guide to developing an effective earned media strategy and measuring success of your earned media activities in a way that showcases business impact and ROI.

How to set earned media objectives that are right for your brand

It’s no secret that analysis and insights are not only commonplace, but pretty much required in today’s business world. This can be a daunting task for communications and PR pros, who don’t typically have data and analytics backgrounds and, more often than not, are juggling limited staff and budgets. 

If you want a bigger budget, a larger team or more recognition for your efforts, tangible measurement of communications performance is the only way to gain the attention of your C-suite. And while earned media strategies and their effectiveness can be measured in a number of different ways, at the end of the day both strategy and measurement need to be based on your specific objectives—and also tied to organizational goals.

Start by asking what your overall business goals are, and how earned media objectives for your brand align with them. They will not always be an exact match, but they should connect to and support organizational success in some way. 

The answers to these types of questions will guide your earned media objectives:

  • What has your company set out to accomplish? 
  • Is your brand a startup or a new entrant that needs to establish itself in the marketplace, or is it focused on growing its market share in a mature market? 
  • Is there a new product launch that needs exposure, a new story that needs to be told, or new messages that you’d like to introduce to your key audiences? 

It is also important to be clear about how you define your objectives and measure success. For example, if one of your organizational goals is to be “first in the market,” you must clearly define your market, e.g. if there are any specific parts of the market you’re focusing on. You’ll also want to determine how you will know when you’ve achieved success, and how you’ll be tracking performance on your way there.

Finally, we’d like to share some of the learnings we have compiled while working with companies and brands of different shapes and sizes—specifically, what to look out for in your objective-setting.

Here are some common objective-setting pitfalls:

  • We sometimes see that growing organizations or small businesses compare themselves to category leaders and end up setting unrealistic goals. While it’s good to challenge yourself, you want to make sure that your objectives are achievable.  For example, a boutique hotel would want to focus on the local market instead of striving to achieve global coverage.
  • Recommendation: Set the objectives that are right for your organization. 
  • We have observed that in some cases, companies set the same objectives across multiple brands or categories, which leads to missing the mark in one area—or across the board. Your objectives must make sense at the brand level, e.g. luxury vs. value brands have different aspirations that require different strategies. 
  • Recommendation: If you have more than one brand, set specific objectives for each brand.
  • Not making your objectives specific to a geographical region is another common mistake. For example, the reach of a US website will be higher than the reach of a European website, so setting the same objectives for both would result in comparing apples to oranges.
  • Recommendation: If you’re operating in more than one global region, set specific objectives for each region.
  • Not keeping competitors in mind when setting communications objectives can also happen. However, framing goals against competition correctly is necessary in today’s hyper connected and dynamic marketplace. It is also important for tracking results such as shifts in the share of voice, Power of Voice, and other benchmarks of your success against your industry peers.
  • Recommendation: Set proper benchmarks and track against your competitors.

Stay tuned for the next blog in our 4-part Earned Media Strategy & Measurement series. And also be on the lookout for our upcoming whitepaper, The Ultimate Guide to Earned Media Measurement & Strategy. In this guide, we will share recommendations and best practices around developing an effective earned media strategy and measuring success of your earned media activities in a way that showcases your business impact and return on investment (ROI).

*Ragan Communications, Communications Benchmark Report 2021