Paid, Owned & Earned Media: Why Marketers Need All Three

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Media Marketing Strategies | Smart Marketing Cleveland

Paid, Owned & Earned Media: Why Marketers Need All Three

The term “media” used to have a simple definition in marketing: “Media” were the paid advertising channels marketers used to deliver promotional messages to prospects.

But today’s definition of “media” is decidedly different. If fact, there are three kinds of media that belong in a marketing plan: Paid, owned, and earned media.

Here’s what “media” means today and why paid, owned, and earned media should be part of your smart marketing strategy.

New Elements of a “Media” Plan

When I studied advertising at Ohio University, my textbook defined a media plan as “the overall plan for implementing the marketing strategy of a company by means of advertising.”

That was then. While paid advertising still drives most media planning, today’s smart marketers are also using earned and owned media to deliver their messages. Here’s a definition of each type of media and the advantages for marketers:

  • Paid media is just what it sounds like: You are paying for access to an audience via a channel that charges you a fee to present your messages. Examples of paid media are television and radio time, print, outdoor, and web advertising, Google AdWords, remarketing, commercial direct mail lists, and trade show exhibit space.

Why you need it: Paid media gives you the ability to target who will see your ads and determine when and how often your messages will be delivered. Paid media is the foundation of most media plans.

  • Owned media are the channels you control: Your website, blog, newsletters, email lists, customer lists, social media accounts, vehicles, buildings, packaging, product inserts – any channel belonging to you that provides an opportunity for delivering a promotional message.

Why you need it: Owned media offers you the most control over the length, format, content, frequency, and delivery of your messages. The cost is usually very low or nothing at all.  Owned media also reaches some very important audiences: Your customers, fans, and followers.

  • Earned media is being mentioned in the media by others, often as a result of something you’ve done to warrant the attention. Public relations campaigns, publicity and event marketing, and guerrilla marketing campaigns are among the tactics marketers use to earn media mentions in the form of news coverage, word-of-mouth references, and social media commentary.

Why you need it: Earned media can be extremely powerful, especially if social media accelerates the conversation and your messages go viral. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is a prime example. Earned media can be very low cost (often free). Being mentioned in a positive way in the press also can give your company credibility and visibility.

Paid + Owned + Earned Media = Smart Marketing

I frequently tell my clients of my Cleveland marketing consulting business that there’s never been a better time to be in marketing. Marketers can deliver messages to almost anyone in the world through channels we couldn’t even have imagined just a few years ago.

Yet having so many options can make it more challenging to create a media plan. Where should you focus your efforts?

While no two media plans are the same, most smart marketing strategies today deploy all three types of media:

  • Use paid media to target and influence future customers;
  • Use owned media to keep your company top-of-mind with buyers, build relationships, and maximize the value of your assets;
  • Use earned media to boost visibility and awareness with all your audiences.
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