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The Difference Between Earned, Owned and Paid Media


Earned owned paid media

Knowing the difference between earned, owned, and paid media can help you deliver more cohesive marketing campaigns that engage and convert more customers.

Earned, owned, and paid media are not new concepts. They’re a triangle that supports each other, with each arm contributing its part to your complete marketing strategy. Paid media has traditionally been dominant (think TV, radio, and print ads). But, with the meteoric rise of digital marketing, earned and owned media are stealing paid’s limelight (think SEO, SEM and social media).

First, let’s get into the difference between earned, owned, and paid media and what each means for your marketing strategy before looking at how they work together.

Earned media definition

Think of earned media as digital word-of-mouth. Also called shared media, it’s the publicity you generate through online communities—like social media and blog posts—and the likes, comments, shares, reviews, mentions, and recommendations you receive from them. An example of effective earned media is organic website traffic combined with a strong community on social media. Together, they foster brand awareness and potential customers know where to go when they are ready to consider your offering.

Owned media definition

Simply put, owned media refers to the online elements unique to your brand. Owned media examples include your company website, mobile apps, and social media pages. They are the public-facing part of your brand. With a strong owned media presence, you have more opportunities to extend your brand awareness and reach more potential customers.

Paid media includes any marketing you pay for to generate interest, visitors, leads, and conversions. Online, social media advertising and pay-per-click (PPC) are the most used forms of paid media. Offline, if you’re buying media (like TV spots, OOH, and direct mail, for example) and negotiating media placement rates with publishers, then you’re using paid media to generate interest in your brand and offering.

What is paid media useful for? It’s great at kick-starting a marketing campaign and generating exposure. Social media advertising, for example, is highly effective at reaching your target audience, boosting your content, and attracting website visitors. You can use clever combinations of paid media—like OOH, PPC, remarketing, and retargeting—to drive potential customers towards your owned media (like your website), generate earned media and increase conversions.

How earned, owned, and paid media shape your marketing strategy

Knowing the difference between earned, owned, and paid media—and how they work together—helps you to streamline and optimize your marketing campaign management. You can combine them in new and creative ways to better reach and interact with your target audience. Think about which media vehicles make the most sense for your brand and how you can create a campaign that combines earned, owned, and paid media types to complement each other and help reach your marketing goals.

It’s important to identify opportunities for media types to come together and effectively deliver your integrated multichannel marketing campaign. For example, you can generate traffic, leads, and conversions on your website (your owned media) using a PPC campaign (paid media), and combine this with an organic social media campaign to generate awareness and engagement (earned media).

Are you measuring your earned, owned, and paid media?

Measuring the success of your marketing always begins at the campaign planning stage. Always plan your goals and objectives before diving headfirst into media buying. Setting clear and realistic targets gives you something tangible to compare your mid-campaign progress to. Plus, they encourage your team to get behind you, and they provide a solid foundation for the briefs you send out to agencies or partners.

Before your campaign starts, make sure you know what metrics to measure for each media type and your various media channels. Also, consider how the measurements from your channels combine and what you can learn from them. For instance, your earned media (likes, shares, comments, mentions, etc.) may be strongly influenced by your paid media, such as your TV spots and who they’re targeting.

When your campaign is underway, it’s all about measuring and optimizing to get the most out of your media. Refer back to your goals and consider what mid-campaign optimizations can help you reach them. For instance, you may decide to shift a portion of your budget from paid media to earned media to improve your campaign’s performance, and by measuring your campaign you’ll have the justification (and confidence) to do this.

Use a digital media hub to manage your budget and make better campaign decisions

Multichannel marketing with several media vehicles across large teams can mean a lot of spinning plates. One of the best ways to keep track of your campaign’s progress, goals, and budget is to use a central media planning hubWhen selecting a media planning tool, give thought to how it caters to earned, owned, and paid media and—more importantly—how it allows you to combine and analyze your campaign data to make decision making easier and improve performance.

With the right media planning hub (like Mediatool!) you can monitor each of your media channels in granular detail and zoom right out to see how your overall campaign is performing, all in the same dashboard. Plus, if you’re an agency, having a media productivity tool can really help you plan, measure, and optimize all your clients’ marketing campaigns in one convenient place.

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