Why Earned Media is Crucial for Retailers in the COVID-19 Era


How to utilize earned media to thrive post-pandemic.

While COVID-19 has impacted virtually every sector, the retail industry was amongst one of the hardest hit. As retailers reevaluate marketing efforts and scrutinize budgets, it is now more important than ever for communication teams to ensure that decision-makers grasp the value of earned media. 

Earned media, simply put, is the act of an influential third party advocating for a brand to its audience. The author controls the messaging, and is not paid for the endorsement. The source of the “free” publicity might be an editor at a retail trade publication, podcast host, fashion blogger, broadcast reporter, or even a customer sharing a tweet on their personal experience.

Earned Media-1Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

Once credibility is achieved via any of these earned media channels, brands are left with an incredibly powerful tangible asset that can be leveraged as a tool by numerous internal departments and divisions. In fact, 57 percent of consumers in the U.S. trust what they hear from friends and family the most when they discover a new product, and around one-third of U.S. shoppers prefer new product information they find from Google searches. Whether retailers are aiming to boost sales revenue, entice investors, or improve existing market share in relation to competitors, earned media results play a key role in supporting end-result achievement.

While strategy development aligned with business outcomes can be a complicated or difficult task to put into action without the necessary expertise of a skilled communications team, or additional resources and tools, here are three tactics that retailers can easily implement into their PR strategies immediately:

  • Borrow Customer Trust – The pandemic has forced many retailers to shutter doors and quickly embrace ecommerce; those that placed significant value on face-to-face customer interactions faced the challenge of digitizing relationship-building, as well as creating virtual loyalty. Earned media placement in well-aligned outlets benefit retailers when teams pinpoint key customer demographics. By identifying the specific media and influencer targets that customers trust and have developed long-term loyalty toward, brands benefit from essentially generating borrowed trust through the endorsement of the third party. 
  • Rebrand Sales Executives as Thought Leaders – Earned media serves as a tool for brands to position internal representatives in front of influential publics through commentary and interviews. Press conversations with executives, employees and salespeople on targeted podcasts, regional news sites, or trade outlets, position employees as thought leaders and influencers tied to a specific brand-approved subject matter, point of view, or regions, and supports building credibility among target customers.
  • Share, Share, Share and Then Share Again – Once press coverage is secured, retailers must ensure that relevant departments across the brand take full advantage of that valuable content. Depending on the business goals and intended outcomes of the individual retailer, the asset might be leveraged by individuals or teams within marketing, sales, finance, customer experience, social media, or HR. Earned media mentions, links, logos, images, and quotes can then be shared with audiences through advertisements, email newsletters, social media posts, blog content, physical brand collateral, or included in messaging, employee biographies, and in email signatures. 

While other forms of media — including paid-through advertising or sponsored content and owned-through blog posts or graphics — certainly play an important role in their own right, earned media shines as the most cost-effective, high-impact and efficient category within the media landscape for retailers. When masterfully leveraged to its full potential through a robust media strategy, earned media can position retailers with massive customer experience opportunities in this unprecedented time.  

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