Earned media is any advertisement that is not bought. Media monitoring services would report on every one of these mentions collected in manila folders each week or month. From them, a company would determine visibility. They would also determine the value of earned placements by determining how much a an actual advertisement would cost in the publication. That was called advertising value equivalency, or AVE.
The problem with that way of determining value is that the visibility is not true visibility, but potential. William Comcowich says that “PR measurement gurus like Katie Paine, Angie Jeffrey, Mike Daniels, Sandra McLeod and leading academics in PR like Jim Grunig and David Dozier worked hard to develop better metrics to analyze the QUALITY of earned media clips.” If they improved brand reputation, featured the product prominently, and did not show competitors more favorably, they had more value.
They were an improvement even if they did not offer a dollar amount.
Web publications were added to the milieu of media in the late 90s. Online publishers did not reveal the number of people accessing their website or the articles where brands were mentioned. Instead, they allowed access to impressions (counted each time an ad shows in a search result or other page). They still operate that way.
Impressions from the 60,000 web sources were not much more useful than AVE. Impressions did not mean a person read the ad, just that it was presented to them. Social media adds more complications. Sites have more subscribers than either print or web publications and the data came in different ways.
Since people can respond to their efforts through likes, sharing articles, and commenting on them, there is a whole new thing to measure. It is engagement with content rather than placement, potential visibility, or impressions. The goal, rather than simply having the best placement or the most potential visibility, was to get the message to the target audience. That goal is tracked through posts.
The information can still be overwhelming. Putting everything into categories can help measure all the sources and provide a better view of how efforts are helping, or not helping, a business. PR output, how much content a company is putting out, how often, and the quality of that content, is important too. It shows what the audience is responding to, how changes affect them, and what is working. It also helps companies determine the true value of such efforts.
Paying attention to the number of earned media clips can still be helpful. It can help the company remain aware of how many people their message is reaching and tell them about their reputation with those people.
Companies now subscribe to several media measurements services in order to receive all the metrics they want. Service companies offer packages that often do not match what companies need. In future, the packages themselves will be customizable. They will be able to choose news coverage, content marketing, social media, their company website, and any mixture therein.
They will also be able to choose what their online dashboard looks like and how the reports are formatted. That way, results can be measured against the company’s goals. CyberAlert wants to be the first to do this. They expect to offer customization to their clients very soon.