What is Earned Media Value & How is It Calculated?

Being outside their direct control, earned media is of special interest to marketers. But it’s tricky. The impact of earned media efforts – that earned media value, can be difficult to evaluate. Let’s pull back the curtain and help your brand calculate this important metric.


There are the two challenges associated with earned media: First, what is the source of the earned media, and second – what is the value? Whether you are a marketer, PR lead, or CEO of your organization, you want the answers to these questions. Otherwise, you risk making errors in attributing business success and, worse, inability to replicate that success to the wrong factors.

What is Earned Media Value?

If you missed our earlier discussions on earned media, you might be wondering what the phrase “earned media value” could mean.

For starters, earned media is one of a trio of sources from which all business publicity is born. There is owned media, which refers to publicity earned from resources owned and controlled by the business. Then we have paid media, which is publicity generated from sources not owned but partly controlled by the business by virtue of paying for the service. Lastly is our subject for the day, earned media, which comes from those sources not owned, nor paid for by the business. It’s totally spontaneous. But not really, as it’s earned – and you’ve likely done a good bit of marketing to earn it!

To give an example of each: Your social media post generating thousands of reactions, that’s owned media; your social media ads reaching hundreds of users who don’t even follow you, that’s paid media; and a social media post by a user promoting your business to their followers, that’s earned media. And earned media is often the best promotion around due to its authenticity.

Earned media value refers to the significance of the exposure gained from earned media – the significance to the business. It is not enough to know that you gained so much publicity from a particular action; you need to understand how much that engagement contributes to the bottom line. Hence, marketers calculate earned media value to assign a dollar amount to the gains.

Briefly, here are some of the sources of earned media that you might want to assign a monetary value to:

  • Product reviews can lead to new sales that are directly attributable to them.
  • Social media mentions expose your business and products to users who may have been unaware of you before, and may soon become your customers.
  • Press coverage can improve your brand’s reputation and market share, making your offering top-of-mind, resulting in new direct customers.
  • Word-of-mouth is the best form of earned media and offers the most influence on consumer buying decisions. While it can be hard to track, it’s not unusual for new customers to say that they were referred by a friend or family member – or a micro-influencer. When the evidence is available, earned media value is then easiest to calculate.

Why Does Earned Media Value Matter to Businesses?

To businesses that are actively seeking earned media, assigning a monetary value to their efforts is crucial for informing subsequent investment decisions. Marketing managers and PR pros in these organizations also have their own reasons for wanting to prove the value of their strategies: To keep the program going or to get additional funding so they can do even greater thing

At the very beginning, we also pointed out that without an accounting of proper earned media value, misattribution becomes an issue. If you attribute all of your marketing campaign success to your paid media efforts, for instance, you might miss the chance to capitalize on the unrecognized benefits of earned media. Earned media is free (being unsolicited) and more credible (coming from outside sources).

Knowing earned media value also allows you to replicate the success by attracting more of it.


By now it should be clear that earned media, while not owned nor paid for by the brand, is still a very direct result of marketing activities. Therefore, there must be ways to increase the quantity and quality of these earned media activities and create more unsolicited publicity! Below are some of the ways to improve your earned media value:

  • Target market: The more clearly you define your target market the better your chances of understanding it. When you understand the people you are targeting, your product and messaging will appeal to them naturally. At that point, it will be hard not to talk about you. Having a clear understanding of consumer interests helps here. Do you?


  • Social listening: You can leverage social media conversations to improve your earned media value. Speaking to NetBase Quid® Customer Spotlight, Brandon Chestnut, a Partner at Identity PR, demonstrates how brands can monitor ongoing earned media and discover ways to get even more publicity.


  • Customer service: If customers leave a shopping experience feeling good inside, they are likely to talk about it. Improving your customer service may be the only thing remaining to make sure that customers leave great reviews, recommend your product to friends, or simply talk! When they talk, you get seen. Make sure you’re incorporating CRM data into your business intelligence platform. If you aren’t doing this already, you need to check out our Intelligence Connector, as it facilitates mission critical information gathering and analysis.


But, back to earned media value!

Is Earned Media Value an Effective Metric for Marketers and Brands?

Despite the apparent significance of discovering earned media value, not everyone in the marketing world agrees that it is an effective metric for business. Some say that it is abstract and based on vanity metrics – measures that have no real implications to brand performance. Others contend that it is too subjective being based on diverse feelings and opinions rather than a concrete standard.

We say, earned media value is an effective metric for marketers and brands. The four reasons given above as to why it matters should be sufficient but here is one more: Earned media value is actually based on metrics that you are already tracking. These metrics include number of impressions, rate of engagement, share of voice, and associated costs.

So, when you hear someone say that earned media value is not a real marketing metric, what they are really saying is, “I don’t know how to calculate earned media value; would you please teach me?” So, we are going to show you the calculus of the metric so you can do it for yourself and see the difference it makes to your own organization before you can teach others.

How Do You Calculate Earned Media Value?

Earned media value is best understood under the light of paid media value. As such, its calculation is also dependent on the going rate for paid media.

Here is what we mean: If you want to know the monetary value for a given amount of earned exposure, you must consider what you would have spent to generate that amount of exposure as well as the amount of potential revenue generated from it. As such, here are some costs to consider: avoided cost; average conversion rate; and, average revenue.

Avoided Cost refers to the cost saved by not having to pay for the promotion. For instance, let’s say a business that is identical to yours runs sponsored posts on Facebook for a month at the total cost of $10,000. These posts generate 1,000,000 impressions for that business; 50,000 engagements; and 35,000 link clicks. Using a tool like NetBase Quid®, these are metrics that can easily be tracked and reported so don’t worry about how the business gets these figures.

Note: In social media and search advertising, costs vary across industries and even within industries are influenced by bidding and performance. Hence, there is no set price for most paid media tactics.

On the other hand, your business which has been generating earned media for exactly the same length of time has, at the cost of $0, realized 200,000 impressions. Using that twin business as your benchmark, can you find out how much money you saved? Certainly!

If $10,000 = 1,000,000 impressions; then $2,000 = 200,000 impressions. So, for 200,000 impressions, you’d have paid $2,000 (potentially), thus your “avoided cost.”

Capturing consumer impressions outside of earned efforts is not free, of course. But neither is the time it takes to create, monitor, and analyze ad spend. Rethinking how you spend that time, and leveling up the activity to something that is truly consumer-centric and impactful is a win-win all around.

Average Conversion Rate refers to the fraction of consumers that progress through your sales funnel and retain your services or buy your product. This is not a simple measure, and it makes sense to capture movement along each phase of the consumer journey. For instance, if your typical purchase progress is “view ad” > “click link to store” > “add to cart” > “checkout” – each arrow represents a small piece of the conversion puzzle. It could include such simple steps as commenting on a post. That user could have scrolled on but something about your post made them stop and say something, and that counts.

Using that logic, let us take the metric “Engagements,” which we’ll assume is dependent on “Impressions” as the people who engage with the post are undoubtedly part of the impressions crowd. So, our conversion rate for Impressions/Engagements is for every 1,000,000 impressions we get 50,000 engagements. So, the Average Conversion Rate for 50,000 engagements out of 1,000,00 impressions = .05.

Better still though, you can put your conversion rate in context by showing where consumers are in the journey, as well as the language used at each stage. This helps you identify where the funnel is getting clogged and how to more rapidly convert warm leads.


Note: You can also use the averages for the industry but if you have the data, your own history will give a better projection.

We’ve used Impressions as a key benchmark here, but the metric could also be Engagements, Share of Voice, Mentions, Sentiment, Brand Passion, Trend Scores, Hashtags, Key Terms – it all depends on your brand’s specific KPIs.

NetBase Quid® allows you to track and cumulate all sorts of value metrics. For example, you could track all brand mentions on one platform or across the entire web over a period of time and even sort them depending on sentiment to better judge which ones make the most sense for your purpose. 

And then, Average Revenue is the average amount of income for the business based on the metric under consideration. No doubt, there is a long gap between impressions and purchases – which is why understanding the consumer journey is so important. However, if you track your volume at every point of the purchase process, it is possible to get an average revenue for impressions. And after a little bit of practice, these numbers not only make sense – but make you wonder why you were wasting your time with paid media, when earned offers such incredible value!

NetBase Quid® helps you track all the important metrics you need to understand your earned media value. It’s fast and the results are neatly presented in an intuitive dashboard making your analysis a breeze. But why keep talking when we can show you? Request a demo today and we will be happy to take you through it all!


Premier social media analytics platform

Expand your social platform with LexisNexis news media

Power of social analytics for your entire team

Media analytics and market intelligence platform

Enrich your media analytics with social data

Media coverage for historical & real-time monitoring

Data streams & custom KPIs for advanced data science

AI, Image Analytics, Reporting Tools & more

Out-of-the-box integration with other data sources