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How to create earned media content that sells

Earned media placements are regarded as the most influential sources of news and information when it comes to driving consumer opinions about brands and products and when driving sharing across social media and other platforms. This is according to a study covering China, the US and the UK by agency WE Communications and YouGov.

Earned media rates top in each market (with 62% in China, 47% in the US and 44% in the UK scoring earned media in the top three boxes on a scale of 1-7) when it comes to influencing brand opinion. Additionally, earned media rates are highest amongst respondents when asked what source of news and information about a brand they would likely share when seeing something positive about a brand (54% in China, 40% in the US and 25% in the UK scoring earned media in the top three boxes on a scale of 1-7).

Telling tales

When it comes to encouraging consumers to buy into a brand, Gareth Davies, head of digital and insight EMEA at WE Communications, says the biggest challenge for PROs is the extent in which they can use clients’ stories: “Right now, as our data suggests, stories are in motion. They are not only impacting a prospective customer’s journey to sale, but they are also influencing how, when and where a prospective customer is entering into a brand’s sales funnel.”

When it comes to the media you use to tell these stories, Davies believes that getting a grip on mobile is key. “This is the one device that rules them all and is our constant companion at all times throughout the day. This means we will need to think and design for a primarily mobile-first ecosystem which of course impacts the format and even duration of the content we would want to place in front of consumers.

Content must be tailored

“PROs also need to think of the device mix. I can guarantee that a lot of brand discovery takes place on mobile, so ensure your content is mobile and search optimised, but also consider the jump off to other devices. It’s likely a brand’s prospective customers will explore content both at work and at home when other devices, such as a laptop, will be used to consume longer-form content – so ensure there is sufficient amount of this longer-form content pushed out into the ecosystem.”

As well as tailoring content for devices, it is also important to focus on what drives people when they buy. Davies points out that you should never rush the sales process, especially with people who haven’t yet decided to buy anything: “For me, where PROs are likely to fall down is focusing too much on trying to drive purchase by pushing customers through the sales funnel as quickly as possible. In fact, some of the greater longer-term gains can be achieved by engaging with those customers who aren’t even considering a purchase.

“The reason why we say this is because our data suggests that there are two distinct mindsets that can influence a customer’s journey to sale. Those who are already on the journey to sale are already in the purchase mindset and are likely to have a clear idea which product, brand or service. In these instances, brands should focus more on ensuring hygiene content is visible and discoverable – product information or user reviews.

How to influence prospective customers

“However, those who aren’t currently on the journey to sale offer the greatest opportunity to be influenced in order to build early brand preference. Whilst these moments don’t have the same level of influence as product information does on the way to sale, but it allows a brand to build preference over time. But in this instance, enticing a prospective customer with product or service information is not going to work – in fact it is likely to have the opposite effect. In these instances, a brand must talk to these customers in the context of what they perceive to be valuable versus a pure product message – does it inform or educate? Does it entertain? Does it help the prospect in their day-to-day lives? These are the sorts of questions that can help answer this content question.”

Davies concludes that designing the right content is only one part of the equation. “Brands must create and nestle content within relevant sites and across their customers’ digital ecosystem in order to be ‘discovered’ and in order to further push these individuals towards your brand.”


WE Communications conducted this Stories in Motion study to examine consumer behaviour in relation to branded content and how behaviour changes by channel, platform and by time of day and product category. The online study surveyed 1,000 respondents per market in the US, UK and China during October 2016 and was conducted by research firm YouGov.

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