Measuring Earned Media Value is a Cop Out. Please Stop it.

Measuring earned media value is a metric that should not be used by public relations professionals for so many important reasons.

By: Michael Brito

Category: Analytics

The funny thing is, I have never been a PR professional in my career. I don’t know the media. I don’t know any journalists. I don’t even like journalists. The ones that I’ve encountered seem to be arrogant and self-righteous. But, again, this is my personal experience.

I have never written a press release. I have never read a press release, and I don’t plan to do so either. I don’t know what they are used for these days yet PR pros spend many hours writing press releases that have no real value.

But this post isn’t about what PR pros do every day. Instead, it’s about measuring earned media value.

What is Earned Media Value (EMV)?

Earned media value estimates what you would have paid for the same amount of impressions using some form of paid media.

For example, let’s assume you receive 10 million earned media impressions from a product launch. To calculate a value, you’d have to determine what you would have to pay in paid media to get 10 million impressions.

Let’s say that your media plan tells you that it would cost $200,000 to get 10 million impressions in display advertising. In this case, the earned media value would be $200,000. Some even look at it as cost savings.

The problem with measuring earned media this way is that impressions are a flawed metric.

Most PR professionals calculate impressions using UVMs. UVM stands for unique visitors monthly, which is data that you can get from SimilarWeb or other web analytics platforms.

However, this metric measures web traffic at the domain level, not the article level. I’m not sure how many PR professionals even know this.

Let’s explore this.

The below screenshot is directly from similarweb.com, looking at Fortune web traffic and analytics. The data below represents total visits and not necessarily UVMs. To get unique visitors monthly, you’d have to have a paid subscription. Nonetheless, let’s assume that Fortune does receive 6.42 million visitors per month. If and when you were to get media coverage in Fortune, there might be a report floating around in someone’s inbox that suggests that your coverage in Fortune generated 6.42 million impressions. Maybe you can understand why this is a flawed metric.

Earned Media Value

This is one reason why measuring the value of earned media this way makes no sense. However, there are media measurement platforms in the market today that give interesting data to brands.

Memo is a relatively new media measurement analytics platform that provides web analytics directly from the publisher’s websites. In other words, if you get coverage in Fortune, Memo will tell you how many unique visitors, among other metrics, you get directly at the article level. This is a massive step in measuring the value of earned media.

But let’s look at this from a different perspective.

Philosophically, an article on the front page of the New York Times probably has more value than purchasing display advertising on the New York Times for various reasons, which we won’t get into today.

So if I work on the PR team, why would I compare a placement written by a trusted third-party source to a media buy. It doesn’t make sense to me because it diminishes the value and credibility of an earned media placement in the top business media outlets, as an example. Also, with the rise of social audio platforms, the PR team must look into Clubhouse analytics and other data points to quantify the value of earned media. This is a new space, and there are a lot of conversations in rooms that discuss products, services, and brands.

It’s time to think differently about how we are showing value with earned media. Impressions are a flawed metric and do not accurately reflect the value of an earned media placement. Paid, owned, and earned media should all be measured differently and evaluated on their own merit.

There are interesting new media measurement platforms in the market today that give brands interesting data points to help them measure the value of their earned media placements, but ultimately, it’s up to PR professionals to understand the value of a placement and what it means for their brand.


Q: Is earned media value a credible metric?

A: There are various ways to measure the value of earned media, but I believe that using impressions as a metric is flawed. Measuring unique visitors or other web analytics at the article level is a more accurate way to understand the value of earned media.

Q: Where created “earned media value”?

A: The term “earned media value” was created by marketing and advertising professionals to measure the return on investment (ROI) of their earned media campaigns. It is used to compare the amount of money spent on a campaign against the resulting increase in revenue or engagement.

Q: Why is it important to measure the value of earned media?

A: Measuring the value of earned media is essential for a few reasons. First, it allows marketers and advertisers to determine whether or not their campaigns are successful and worth continuing. Second, it helps them allocate their budgets more effectively by targeting the channels that provide the best return on investment. Finally, it allows them to quantify the value of their earned media campaigns in terms of dollars and cents.

Q: What are some other ways to measure the value of earned media?

A: There are a few other ways to measure the value of earned media, though none are as accurate or reliable as the engagement or ROI metric. Other methods include counting the number of times a mention or article is shared, determining how much traffic is driven to a site from earned media mentions, or assigning a monetary value to each earned media mention.

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