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What the C-Suite Needs to Know About the True Power of Earned Media Through debunking common misconceptions and illustrating its impact across the marketing sales funnel, this article urges C-suite members to embrace earned media as a key driver of sustainable growth and brand influence.

By Kelly Fletcher Edited by Chelsea Brown

Key Takeaways

  • The C-suite need to recognize earned media's power in bolstering brand credibility, reputation and audience engagement.
  • CEOs often overlook earned media for a variety of reasons, including misconceptions about its importance, resource requirements, measurement challenges and the focus on immediate ROI.
  • Earned media is versatile and permeates every stage of the marketing sales funnel and buyer's journey.
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Being part of the C-suite in any company is a monumental responsibility that demands a diverse skill set and a deep understanding of various facets of business. To reach such a position typically involves years of hard work, experience and a fair share of challenges.

CEOs, especially, are often tasked with overseeing multiple aspects of the business, from sales growth to financial stability and brand management. While C-suite members are undoubtedly knowledgeable, there's one area that often escapes their attention: earned media.

Related: What Is Earned Media and What Is Its Value?

Why earned media matters

Earned media holds a significant place in an organization's success story because of its ability to bolster credibility, enhance brand reputation and widen the reach of its message. Unlike paid media, which includes advertisements, earned media comprises press coverage, social media mentions and word-of-mouth referrals. Consumers tend to trust earned media more because it's seen as impartial and genuine.

Research by YouGov indicates more than 90% of consumers put their faith in earned media. Positive coverage from reputable sources not only validates the credibility of the organization but also introduces it to new audiences, thereby boosting brand visibility and awareness. Additionally, earned media sparks conversations and interactions, fostering deeper engagement with the audience and strengthening brand loyalty. In fact, a substantial portion — ranging from 25 to 40% — of all traffic and lead generation originates from earned media. By leveraging the power of earned media, organizations can amplify their message, establish authority in their industry and drive sustainable growth.

Why the C-suite often overlooks earned media

In my firm's experience, CEOs and executive teams tend to overlook earned media due to several misconceptions:

  • Perception of importance: Some CEOs underestimate the significance of earned media compared to other marketing channels. They may not fully grasp its impact on brand reputation, trust and consumer perception.

  • Resource constraints: Developing a robust earned media strategy requires time, effort and resources. CEOs may prioritize areas of the business that offer immediate returns, overlooking the long-term benefits of earned media initiatives.

  • Measurement challenges: Many CEOs mistakenly believe that earned media is difficult to measure. However, advancements in analytics tools like GA4, UTM tags and media monitoring software have made it highly measurable.

  • Focus on immediate ROI: CEOs often feel pressure to deliver immediate returns on investment, leading them to overlook the time-intensive nature of earned media strategies.

Perhaps most importantly, earned media is a strategic long-game tactic that CEOs must grasp to harness its full potential. Unlike paid media, which often yields immediate results but comes with hefty price tags, earned media requires patience and persistence. While paid placements can cost thousands of dollars, securing coverage through earned channels like bylined articles demands only the investment of time in writing and pitching.

Although the process may not deliver instant gratification, the trust-building outcomes it generates over time are invaluable. CEOs who recognize and commit to earned media stand to reap significant dividends in credibility, reputation and sustained audience engagement.

Related: 6 Strategies to Maximize Earned Media for Your Brand

Reframing the narrative: Aligning earned media with the marketing sales funnel and buyer's journey

Challenging the conventional wisdom, I've come to realize that earned media is more versatile and impactful than commonly believed. It permeates every stage of the marketing sales funnel and the buyer's journey, from building awareness to fostering loyalty.

Consider this scenario: You craft a compelling bylined article showcasing your industry expertise and addressing a common challenge your customers face. The article gets published in a major media outlet, generating awareness for your brand. You then share the article on social media, targeting users in the consideration phase who have already engaged with your brand. Additionally, you incorporate the article into your website content and email newsletters, catering to prospects in the consideration phase. As prospects move into the conversion stage, you leverage the article's credibility to drive conversions, solidifying their trust in your brand. Finally, in the loyalty phase, you utilize testimonials, a form of earned media, to reinforce brand advocacy and deepen customer loyalty.

Related: Why Earned Media is the Best Way to Earn Your Reputation

For in-house public relations and marketing executives, bridging the comprehension gap within the C-suite presents a formidable challenge. While traditional business education often overlooks earned media, its potential for exceptional results remains undeniable. Encouraging the C-suite to embrace earned media requires patience and persistence, accompanied by a compelling showcase of its tangible benefits. As the business landscape evolves, urging the C-suite to explore earned media can unlock new avenues of growth and elevate the organization's narrative to new heights.

Kelly Fletcher

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

CEO of Fletcher Marketing PR

Working with regional, national and Fortune 500 companies, Kelly Fletcher has 20 years in the full spectrum of integrated communications, specializing in the art and science of how people process brand messaging, problem-solve and purchase.

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