Understanding earned, paid and owned media

By Jessica Pitman, Accounts and Project Manager at Yellow Door Collective

Earned, paid and owned media
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While each element has its own role, understanding how to integrate the types of media can make for a very effective digital media strategy.

Andy Haldane, Chief Economist at the Bank of England, said: “The business model of the future for many corporations will not be the same as the business model of the past; it will have a much larger digital dimension to it.”

We’re all currently experiencing this digital transformation, in both our work and personal lives, but it’s not just a short-term necessity – many of these changes are here for the long haul.

One thing we have all seen first-hand, as second waves of the COVID-19 virus peaked across the world, is that future success always depends on actions taken today. The same theory applies to the marketing world: smart companies won’t be placing their communication efforts on hold, waiting to see how the ‘new normal’ will pan out. Instead, they will be running strategic digital PR and marketing campaigns now, so that they’re ready to strike when new opportunities arise.

A digital approach to your PR and marketing campaigns, without a doubt, gives you the greatest reach right now. But how can you strategise the most effective campaigns?

What is the difference between earned, paid and owned media?

To build an effective digital marketing strategy to survive and thrive in our current landscape, you need to understand the different types of content:

■ Earned Media
Earned media is content that someone creates about your company (such as a mention of your product or service in an Instagram Story). It’s free exposure, which is great, but on the flip side you don’t have control over it. Other examples include a Google review about your product or service, or if you’re mentioned in a backlink from another person or company’s blog post.

Examples of earned media:
• Customer reviews and ratings (e.g., Yelp.com for restaurants, Amazon.com for products).
• Mentions on any social media platforms.
• Word-of-mouth recommendations, both in person and digital.
• Shares/retweets of your content or any content about your brand or business.
• Blog posts about your business or product.
• Coverage in magazine or newspaper articles.

■ Paid Media
Paid media is the content you pay for (like a targeted Facebook and Instagram advert). The positive is that it is created and controlled by you (the brand), but it appears on channels that the brand doesn’t own or control. Making use of outsourced media agencies often help you get a better return on your investment.

Examples of paid media:
• Paid search advertising (e.g. Google Ads, Pay-per-click, Remarketing/Retargeting).
• Social Media ads (Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter, Snapchat, and Pinterest, etc).
• Paid influencer campaigns.
• Native ads (Sponsored/Recommended Content, Search and Promoted Listings, Promoted Stories).
• Display ads, video ads, pop-ups, and other promoted multimedia.
• Traditional advertising (e.g., television, radio, print, outdoor).

■ Owned Media
Owned media is content that you create and you own (think of your website, including the blog posts you promote on it), which allows you to be in total control of your content. This can be content created in-house (posts and Stories on your Instagram page) or through a third-party provider or platform (the Facebook platform or the video someone created for your business).

Although owned media allows you to build your brand’s awareness and audience engagement, it often doesn’t have the same impact as a recommendation from a friend or customer.

Of course, there are two big advantages to owned media. First, you have complete control over the content. Second, it’s usually more cost-effective that other forms of media. Use your owned media presence to establish yourself as an expert in your field. Create helpful, high-quality content on a regular basis, and use both owned and paid media channels to distribute this content to your target audiences. If your content is truly valuable, it will also help you gain earned media via referrals and mentions.

Examples of owned media
• Company Website or blog.
• Social media accounts.
• Newsletters and email lists.

How can they be used together to build an effective marketing campaign, especially in this landscape?

To find the right balance of earned, paid and owned media, put yourself in your target audience’s shoes and imagine their user-journey. For example, they may first experience your brand through a striking paid Instagram campaign, which leads them to your website where they see your latest earned editorial coverage, and then browse your brand’s owned content before making a purchase.

Most companies use a mix of all three types of media in their marketing strategies, but your chosen mix will be dependent on your goals, budget and brand strategy. By understanding how they complement each other, you can optimise your digital marketing efforts and keep your brand top-of-mind during these unusual times.


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