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Earned media’s critical & cost-effective role in filling the funnel

Earned media may not be known to drive as many direct click-throughs or gated content leads as owned and paid media, but its value is in generating high quality leads and traffic, and pulling new prospects into the sales and marketing funnel. That was my experience leading a corporate demand gen program before I came to Inprela.

At my previous company, one of our goals was to break into some new vertical markets. In order to accomplish that, we realized we couldn’t rely on capturing leads with gated content on our site or through paid search because the new segments weren’t looking for or even aware of the solution we offered. We needed to shift efforts to the first step in the buyer’s journey: introducing the brand and educating new markets through contributed thought leadership, credible influencers and earned trade media. Everyone on the team understood the need for positive brand recognition and trust at the very top of the funnel in order to get high quality prospects to take the next step of visiting the website to be able to retarget and eventually capture their information for lead nurturing and sales qualifying.

Trend data supports this approach, helping explain why earned media is becoming more important than ever.

  • More than a quarter of US internet users will use ad blockers this year, according to a recent report from eMarketer. That means it’s becoming more difficult to reach buyers through paid media.
  • A report from Outsell, Inc. last year showed the public views earned media as the most authentic form of marketing. Buyers view trade media and industry influencers as an unbiased source of information to help them make decisions.

Here are 5 reasons why PR should be one of your top pipeline building strategies:

It boosts credibility and creates meaningful relationships with new audiences – All strong relationships are built on trust. You can’t build trust in your brand among new audiences by pushing out unsupported claims. With PR, you earn it through an unbiased, authoritative source, such as key opinion leaders, word of mouth, trade media and influencers.

It generates organic and quality web traffic – SEOs like to call it “earning links”, but for PR pros it’s simply a best practice to include links to related resources that may be relevant to the reader. Including links fulfills an audience need, but it also boosts referral traffic which improves your search rankings. Even a brand mention from a relevant publication without a link can encourage your prospects to search and visit your website.

It extends your reach – We’ve said it before: just because you’re creating content and publishing it on your website doesn’t mean it’s reaching your target audience. Earned media is an authentic method of promoting your content and serving it to new audiences. Have a new case study? Perhaps a publication is writing an article on the same topic and needs an example. Publish a new white paper? Chances are an industry blogger has an opinion on the topic and could use some data from your white paper to support their position.

It’s cost effective – Sure, PR’s intangible benefits and impact can be difficult to measure through hard data. But the business value goes beyond what hard data can tell us – it’s vital to brand reputation, narrative and awareness, creating a long-term, positive effect for minimal investment. Organizations with leaders who properly invest and clearly understand PR’s role beyond impressions, clicks and leads reap the benefits. They see the return in more audiences sharing content, getting invitations to speak, requests for experts to interview for articles, etc. PR just doesn’t pay off, but also augments success for a lower price tag than paid advertising.

Paid media has lost its touch – The days of Mad Men captivating buyers with witty copy and shiny product features and benefits are over – at least in B2B. With more millennials and gen Z-ers in the workplace who don’t trust advertising, and the rise of ad blockers and anti-spam regulations, marketers can no longer solely rely on paid media to deliver messaging and generate leads. Brands can’t pay their way to growth – it takes strong, quality messaging that resonates, and earned trust over time.

All of the trends are favoring authentic relationship building which means there’s never been a better time to integrate PR into all areas of marketing to ensure a strong narrative and brand credibility. Contact us to learn how to get started: connect@inprela.com.

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