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Paid media dominates marketing and is one of the most effective ways for brands to dictate their narrative – and at no small cost. Recent Forrester studies revealed that digital ad spending in the US will reach $146 billion by 2023 – but it has its limitations, and scaling businesses are starting to feel the growing pains of trying to fit into space that simply doesn’t have any more room to budge.

In today’s digital landscape, companies execute various integrated marketing campaigns across paid, owned, and social channels. But in an over-saturated market, sticking to traditional advertising simply won’t suffice. This is why more businesses are starting to realize and invest in growth opportunities beyond paid media coverage—earned media, to be exact.

In this piece, we’re looking at the unparalleled strategic value of earned media and how it elevates consumer brands while increasing brand recognition, visibility, and authority.

Has ‘set and forget’ hit the ceiling?

We cannot overlook the strengths of advertising. Brands are allowed full reins when crafting their message, and they have complete control over campaigns, audience segmentation and the level of investment. Overall, it’s a compelling proposition, especially considering the power to shape narratives and hone into precision targeting techniques.

But there’s one critical flaw – a growing skepticism.

Ads are viewed with growing distrust. This skepticism dilutes the impact of advertising.

Simply put, you can run a successful business without PR, but you won’t become a household name without PR. Ambitious companies value PR, and in return, PR helps them thrive. Advertising is the bare minimum for ambitious, growth-driven brands. Although it’s a great way to compile metrics on your target audience, its value is short-lived; it simply cannot yield the brand value of earned media outcomes.

Despite the inarguable value of earned media coverage, only about 11% of marketing budgets are devoted to earned media strategies. Sure, consumer brands may be increasing their advertising spend and devoting time and resources to digital advertising campaigns, but few leverage the advantages of earned media content.

Although this is part and parcel of a successful public relations strategy, it only scratches the surface regarding leveraging earned media’s value in the consumer product space and its influence on consumer behavior.

Building a resilient brand through strategic communication

In a saturated market, earned media separates consumer brands that use ‘authenticity’ as a marketing buzzword from those that simply are.

By acknowledging the unparalleled influence of media content from third-party publishers that are influential industry thought-leaders, your business effectively leverages brand awareness and credibility that no paid media can match. Simply put, earned media provides publicity and brand recognition that money can’t buy, but effort and quality can earn.

This brings us to our next point – how can consumer brands effectively ‘earn’ the advantages of the strategic PR value of earned media?

Media coverage for consumer brands

Despite the fast-evolving digital landscape, third-party media coverage remains one of the fundamental principles of a strong earned media content strategy. This refers to when a brand, product, or service catches the attention of sought-after publishers, journalists, or other credible third parties. By establishing newsworthiness or merit amongst these third parties, the brand earns a feature story, news article, or mention. This gifts your consumer brand the weight of the publisher’s credibility as it reaches a larger audience.

It’s also important to highlight the longevity and cost-effectiveness of earned media. Advertising content ends when the campaign ends (or the budget runs out). Earned media, on the other hand, can continue to generate value long after first published.

There is no time limit for how long a stellar review, news article, or high-quality backlinks will continue to drive awareness, attention, and traffic – making it a cost-effective investment for consumer brands looking for a high ROI over a long period.

Ultimately, brands must allow their consumer product PR and advertising to work harmoniously – a powerful alliance. By aligning the two and playing on both strengths and weaknesses, brands can amplify their visibility and extend the reach of their marketing initiatives.