How Earned Media Works In The Real World

Buying decisions are influenced by our social connections and trusted online resources more than ever before. Find out how all of the above lead from discovery to purchase in a brief moment.

What do Finland, gnomes, porn, Dungeons and Dragons and earned media have to do with one another? Maybe a lot more than you think.

I’m a role playing gamer, and one of my main outlets for finding new RPG blogs is Google+. It was on Google+ that I originally heard of Gnome Stew, a game mastering blog and soon to be one of my biggest influencers in the gaming community.


Gnome Stew contributor and active G+ community participant Martin Ralya has a gift for writing awesome, useful articles that give credit to the sources of his ideas. In January earlier this year, Martin posted an article about Die Drop Tables, a concept found in a gaming book called Vornheim, written by Zak Smith. Zak, a blogger in his own right, runs the popular Playing D&D With Pornstars website (you might want to wait til you get home to click that link), and the book was published by Lamentations of the Flame Princess, a Finnish-company run by all-around crazy and incredibly inventive business owner James Raggi.

If you’re asking what this all has to do with earned media, here’s the payoff: vornheim-rpg-earned-media

Shortly after reading the Die Drop Tables article, I purchased Vornheim. Martin’s article demonstrated the usefulness of one small aspect of something within the book, and with his pedigree of excellent articles and recommendations, I bit the bullet, marched over to one of my favorite game sellers, and… purchase made.

How did this happen? How did an adult film actor who wrote a weird book that got published by a niche game publisher based in Finland find its way into my home in Indiana? Easy – the answer is trust.

The earned media cycle in the wild

When I saw Martin’s article about Die Drop Tables in my Google+ feed, I clicked the link and read the article. I tried the technique he reviewed and made a few die drop maps of my own. Already familiar with both Zak and Lamentations of the Flame Princess, I knew the book was written by a unique writer with something to say, and a published by a reputable and game-changing company.

Why should stories like this be important to us as marketers? Because it not only demonstrates the powers of trust and social media but the nature of the modern buying decision.

My buyer’s journey went from social mention to article to search to purchase. Look at everything that is involved there! Social media, earned media, search engine, eCommerce platform – it’s all there. My buyer’s journey also involved trust; not only with the social medium where it started in Google+, but with a blogger I already enjoyed, and an author and company I was familiar with and respected.

Vornheim is unique, challenging, funny, and incredibly useful – so much so that Martin Ralya was moved to develop his own kind of drop tables for making world maps. His articles aren’t sales pieces – they are genuinely useful articles that translate genuinely useful aspects of a very useful and unique piece of content.

Earned media lesson learned

This is the essence of true earned media. Vornheim was so useful that it generated content about it by itself. A respected and trusted voice in the RPG community found the book so useful that he wrote about it and shared his thoughts through social media. A truly great piece of content was written about another truly great piece of content. And a sale was made.

This is at the heart of Relevance’s earned media contribution strategy™. The strategy includes creating an amazing piece of content for an express reason – to encourage the kind of earned media demonstrated above, where someone related to the content finds the original artifact so useful that they can’t help sharing it with others.

When unique, useful content is the ultimate utility for a user, the earned media it generates building trust and exposes others not only to your brand, but to your community. It also proves that it’s still important to get the conversation started by promoting your own utility content. We rely on our trusted resources to tell us what’s new and what’s neat – and in order to keep the conversations going and the community growing, it takes more social activity and more utility content to move the marketing needle.

Martin Ralya, Gnome Stew, Zak Smith and Lamentations of the Flame Princess have all enjoyed increased digital exposure, just by doing what they do naturally. Each contributed something uniquely useful to the community, and helped participate in their community’s conversation in a positive way.

Image credits: Gnome Stew,

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