MIAMI—When it comes to turning influencer marketing into sales, earned media outperforms paid—often by a factor—of seven or more, attendees at PRovoke16 heard from Procter & Gamble and MSLGroup during a session on “The Brand New Influence: Innovations in Consumer Engagement.”

Guillaume Herbette, CEO of MSLGroup introduced the panel with a bold statement: “Influence has never been as important as it is today. And we are moving from the traditional advertising market to a market defined by influence. And the ROI of earned media is seven times the impact of marketing.”

MSL has been working closely with P&G on influencer marketing—something to which the consumer products giant has been committed for many years.

“At P&G, influencer marketing is brand PR,” said Lee Bansil, director of communications for P&G Global Health Care. “We define influence as any asset our consumer can turn to for advice.” But there’s nothing new about influencer marketing at P&G, Bansil said, pointing to the American Dental Association’s endorsement of Crest in 1960 as an early example of leveraging influencers.

Influencer marketing has been central to the launch of Oral B Genius, the company’s “intelligent tooth brush” (it talks to your iPhone and offers advice on brushing your teeth more efficiently), Bansil said. The company took the brush to Mobile World Congress in order to recruit technology influencers, and then took those influencers to journalists, who are also influencers.

Similarly, the company’s “Shed Happens” campaign for Swiffer focused on vets and pet store owners and employees to talk to consumers about how to introduce pets into their homes without creating a housekeeping crisis.

And for Charmin, the company worked with influencers—plumbing giant Roto-Rooter—to dispel an urban myth that Charmin clogged separate tanks.

“We don’t go to market without using the influencer. It’s integrated into everything; it’s part of our DNA.”

Nevertheless, earned media does have limitations, Herbette said: “It can lack scale. It can have a short shelf life.”

And, added Erin Lanuti, MSL’s chief influence strategist, “it can be difficult to quantify the impact that earned has on brand life and sales. We started to look at statistics showing that the impact of influence on sales has never been stronger. Peer to peer recommendations, drives sales twice as effectively as paid advertising.”

The firm has been working with sister agencies to build a new offer it calls Conversation 2 Commerce, which has four phases: Identifying the best, most relevant influencers; Craft the right, most relevant story or campaign; Being able to amplify that coverage; Measuring the impact—in terms of consideration, purchase intent, and conversion rates.

“What we have found across every single test is that earned outperforms paid. Its more effective in terms of cost-per-click, and most important when it comes to sales, earned and paid together drive more uplift than paid alone. It’s not about raising awareness or driving consideration. It’s having an impact on sales.”

Added Bansil: “The future is integration, and we have to find our place in the integrated mix. We have to be brand-builders as well as PR people.”