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How to Calculate Earned Media Value (2023)

When searching online for something to eat, you will come across different types of content fighting for your attention. On a single search results page, you may see an ad for a restaurant at the top of the page, a post from the restaurant’s blog, and an uncompensated review from an independent third-party site. Which are you most likely to trust?

The most trustworthy among these is the third-party review, because the unaffiliated publisher likely has no incentive to promote the establishment, instilling greater confidence in consumers.

This ability to inspire consumer trust makes earned media coverage a valuable marketing tool. To quantify it, you can calculate earned media value (EMV). Here’s how to use EMV to measure earned media results and optimize your marketing performance.

What is earned media value?

Earned media value (EMV) is a performance metric that quantifies the value of print or digital coverage of your brand that isn’t purchased by your company or published on channels you control. Examples of earned media include customer reviews, press coverage, third-party social media posts, customer recommendations, and other forms of organic media.

Measuring earned media value can help you evaluate the success of your earned media strategy and compare performance across earned media campaigns and outlets. This data can help you target improvements and optimize earned media marketing budgets to improve results.

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How is earned media different from paid and owned media?

Digital marketers typically divide media coverage into three categories: earned, owned, and paid media. Here’s how they differ:

  • Paid media is coverage you pay for—say, a paid influencer endorsement or an ad placement. 
  • Owned media is coverage on communication channels that your brand controls, such as your website, blog, email marketing list, or social media accounts.
  • Earned media is neither purchased by your brand nor hosted on a platform you control. Examples include reviews, news articles, and third-party mentions like user-generated social content, unpaid influencer marketing activities, and customer recommendations. 

Although all three types of coverage can help you increase brand awareness, earned media can be particularly valuable to your brand’s image. Research shows consumers tend to trust earned media more than other media types because earned media implies a third-party perspective. Essentially, consumers perceive earned media outlets as more reliable because they aren’t incentivized to promote your brand. Positive coverage can help you increase brand credibility and convert potential customers.

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Examples of earned media

An earned media strategy is a marketing strategy designed to generate earned media coverage. It consists mainly of public relations (PR) efforts like creating and sharing press releases, hosting events, and publicizing your brand’s activities on your website, blog, or social media accounts. 

Here are two brands that have employed these strategies to garner media attention:


Footwear company Rothy’s makes stylish, sustainable flats from recycled plastic water bottles. The company launched in 2016, and its positioning as an environmentally responsible maker of attractive footwear quickly garnered press attention. In 2017, The New York Times published a spotlight article, titled “What if Your Environmentally Correct Shoes Were Also Cute?” in which the company’s founders discussed its low-waste production model. 

Bloggers and journalists have continued to cover the brand’s mix of style, comfort, and sustainability. News outlets such as CNN, lifestyle sites like Popsugar, and review verticals including The Strategist all publish articles that mention the brand.

Pura Vida

As part of its social media marketing strategy, jewelry brand Pura Vida uses post-purchase emails to encourage customers to generate earned media by posting user-generated content to social media platforms. To create an incentive, the brand features customers who use the hashtag #puravidabracelets on its accounts. The hashtag has more than 300,000 posts on Instagram, including social media posts from Pura Vida and from users showing how they style and wear the brand’s products.

How to calculate earned media value

There are different methods for calculating earned media value. It’s important to note that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Because of that, EMV is typically an internal performance metric, meaning you don’t use it to compare yourself to competitors. Instead, you monitor changes in your earned media performance and compare the effectiveness of your various earned media campaigns.

Here’s an overview of two popular strategies and how to use an earned media value calculation to generate actionable insights for your brand: 

EMV = impressions × CPM

One way to calculate the value of earned media is to multiply the total number of impressions from earned media coverage (i.e., the number of times people see your earned media content) by your average paid media cost per mille (CPM)—how much you pay to reach 1,000 users through paid media. 

Companies use a paid media metric to calculate earned media value for comparing the earned media’s reach to paid efforts. By using paid media CPM you can quantify how much you’d pay for the same impressions if you placed ads or partnered with an influencer.

If you run paid advertising campaigns, you may already know your CPM. If not, you can calculate it using the following formula: 

CPM = (total cost / total impressions) x 1,000

For example, if you paid $300 for a Google Ads campaign that generated 30,000 impressions, your CPM is (300 / 30,000) x 1,000, or $10.

CPM varies by paid channel. Many companies calculate CPM per channel (or even per campaign), allowing them to analyze the relative cost of individual campaigns or combine each into an average CPM. Be realistic about your CPM—for instance, it’s best not to use the CPM for the most expensive advertising space in your industry.

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After you determine your CPM, find the number of impressions received by earned media content. How you do this depends on the type of media coverage you are measuring. For social media content, you can use a social media analytics tool to obtain total impressions on a hashtag or mentions of your brand. For press coverage, you can look at total circulation numbers or average site traffic. Using various data sources can help you get as accurate a measure of reach as possible.

Once you have your total impressions, use the following formula:

EMV = impressions × CPM 

For example, if you receive 2,000 impressions for an earned media campaign and your typical CPM is $10, your total EMV is 2,000 x $10, or $20,000.

Remember that the resulting dollar value isn’t suitable for benchmarking against paid and owned media marketing efforts. Instead, you can use EMV to compare the value of your brand’s earned media campaigns and effectively allocate marketing dollars across marketing efforts.

EMV = impressions x CPM x adjustment variable

You can also use what’s known as an adjustment variable (also called an adjustment factor) to increase the relevance of EMV data to your specific goals and account for the quality of your earned media coverage. Your adjustment value depends on your campaign objective.

For example, if your goal is to increase clicks to your website and there are 200 clicks associated with your earned media impressions, you might select an adjustment variable of 200. If your goal is engagement, you might use an engagement metric like the total number of social likes, comments, or shares generated by a campaign.

The formula for a campaign that generates 2,000 impressions with a CPM of $3 and an adjustment variable of 200 is: 

EMV = 2,000 x $3 x 200 = $1,200,000

You can use this approach to evaluate the value of different earned media campaigns in light of a specific objective. For example, you might set an adjustment variable based on click-through rate (CTR) and run two EMV calculations to compare the value of your influencer marketing strategy to your efforts to encourage user-generated content (UGC).

If your influencer marketing strategy garnered 10,000 impressions and a 5% CTR, along with a comparable paid media CPM of $5, you’d end up with the following EMV:

Influencer EMV = 10,000 x $5 x 5% = $2,500

Your UGC campaign had more impressions with 40,000 but ended up with just a 1% CTR. Using the same paid media CPM, that would give you an EMV of:

UGC EMV = 40,000 x $5 x 1% = $2,000

Despite having more impressions with your UGC efforts, inputting an adjustment variable focused on your main goal for the campaigns (increasing CTR) illustrates that the influencer marketing strategy had a higher earned media value.

How to calculate earned media value FAQ

What formulas do you use to calculate earned media value?

There are two main ways to calculate earned media value. The first is the product of impressions and CPM. In calculating earned media value, CPM refers to the cost per thousand impressions of a comparable paid media campaign. The second calculation is geared toward quantifying the effectiveness of your earned media in reaching a specific goal. To do this, include whatever metric you’re measuring as the adjustment variable in the equation: EMV = impressions x CPM x adjustment variable.

How do you account for the quality of media coverage in EMV calculation?

You can use an adjustment factor to ensure your EMV calculation reflects your goals. For example, if your goal is to improve brand credibility, you might use a social listening tool to gauge brand sentiment and set an adjustment variable based on the number of positive mentions of your brand.

Is influencer marketing paid or earned media?

Influencer marketing can fall under paid or earned media based on whether you compensate influencers. Paying or incentivizing influencers is a paid media strategy while publicizing brand activities to attract influencer attention is earned media.

Can you calculate EMV for social media and influencer mentions?

Yes. As long as you can count earned media impressions, you can calculate EMV. A social media analytics tool can help you calculate impressions for a brand, post, or hashtag on social channels.

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