The foundation of any relationship is trust. This is set of atomic bonds that unites friends, loved ones, coworkers, and even brands and customers. Trust—along with its cousin, authenticity—is increasingly the coin of the realm for modern marketing as customers disregard or overlook traditional advertising channels. But while today’s customer is generally skeptic of ads, they still want to educate themselves about brands and products before making a purchase.
Given this apparent impasse, what can brands do to introduce themselves to customers and win their loyalty? And where can customers turn to learn about the brands vying for their hearts and minds?
Enter earned media. This approach refers to instances where brands or figures associated with them are featured, quoted, or write for publications, websites, and other outlets. Earned media allows a brand to organically promote its expertise and capabilities to a wide audience through established third-party sources, and as a result, customers consider it significantly trustworthier and more authentic than traditional ads. Brands can therefore make earned media a priority in their marketing strategies to build trusting relationships with customers when ads aren’t always up to the task.
Millennial customers are particularly receptive to earned media marketing. Representing 25% of the total U.S. population, this generation is very values-driven, so trust must be a key ingredient of any millennial-oriented marketing. Millennials are also prone to intensive research before they make purchases since they have less wealth but more debt than previous generations. Earned media is the perfect prescription for these customers: A quote from a founder or CEO on a website popular among millennials, for example, can serve as an endorsement of the brand from a trusted source that inspires the reader to become a customer.
Earned media is a particularly sound tactic for small businesses as well. Audiences for websites or publications can reach the thousands or millions, so a single quote or plug in an article might be enough to establish a national presence for small businesses that they might not be able to acquire otherwise. Furthermore, earned media strategies help establish positive relationships with media outlets, which can pay dividends and lead to additional earned media opportunities in the future.
Brands already invest oceans of blood, sweat, and tears into increasing their brand exposure and conversions. They work hard to win their customers, but to succeed in 2019, brands will have to earn them.