If you work in a marketing agency, or are a marketer in-house in a larger company, you probably know the answer to “what is owned, earned and paid media?”.
But small business owners wear many hats. Marketing is likely just one of your myriad of responsibilities. So you may not be familiar with industry terms like owned, earned and paid media. However, no matter the size of your business, these concepts can be essential for creating a marketing strategy with optimal reach.
So let’s dive in and see what it’s all about. We’ll also look at how to employ owned, earned and paid media as part of your marketing strategy in a small business.
Definition: Owned Earned Paid Media
This phrase is simply a framework for how to organize and execute your marketing:
Owned media is when you leverage a channel you create and control. This could be your company blog, YouTube channel, your website, or even your Facebook page. Even though you don’t strictly “own” your YouTube channel or your Facebook page, you do control them and don’t have to pay for basic usage.
Earned media is when customers, the press and the public share your content, speak about your brand via word of mouth, and otherwise discuss your brand. In other words, the mentions are “earned,” meaning they are voluntarily given by others.
Paid media is when you pay to leverage a third-party channel, such as sponsorships and advertising on third-party sites.
Forrester Research created a chart that lays it out pretty well, including the advantages and disadvantages:
Discussions about owned, earned and paid media tend to be in the enterprise context. Case studies and advice often focus on Fortune 1000 companies having boo-koo bucks for their marketing.
But the concept is just as relevant to small businesses.
The concept of owned, earned and paid media has content at the center. Luckily, small businesses are getting savvier at creating and curating content.
Avoid These 2 Myths
The key to understanding the “owned, earned, paid media” concept is not to buy into these two myths:
Myth #1: All you need is owned media.
It’s important to have channels and content you own — for sure. But they alone are not enough.
What many small businesses lack with their owned channels is reach and scale. You have a website with excellent case studies and resources on it, but it could use more traffic. The Instagram channel for your brand doesn’t have a lot of followers and shares of your content through it yet. Your company has blog, but you don’t have time to regularly create content. And when you do, with so much content floating around online today, it’s hard to get eyeballs to your blog to read it.
That’s where earned and paid media come in. They extend your reach. To be successful, you need to amplify and scale your owned media channels.
Myth #2: Paid media is more expensive than any other kind of media.
Recognize that there’s a cost to every channel — time, money or both.
Let’s take owned media. Whether it’s the time your people spend in improving your website, writing blog posts for your blog, commissioning expensive infographics to get people talking, editing videos to share on YouTube — or paying for SEO services to get more traffic to your website — you still have to invest time, money or both.
It’s the same when it comes to earned media. Earned media takes effort to develop and leverage at any scale. If you want your content to spread through social media and for social discussions to spring up around your products, it means you have to put effort into developing your social media channels. You must build your social media profiles, engage with customers, curate content. And you must also do it consistently, week in and week out. You must stick with it. Paying attention to your Twitter account once every 5 months won’t do much.
If you want to earn influencer mentions, you may have to reach out to bloggers or social media personalities via email to share that new infographic. Or you may need to engage in guest blogging on third party blogs to get more people to pay attention to you and your brand. Here again, you have to do it consistently over time. One guest blog post may help. But it’s hardly enough to move the needle far.
So before assuming that advertising is more expensive than the other two forms of media, consider ALL the expenses. Consider the value of your time and your team’s time, too.
Most small business owners underestimate the cost of the marketing they do in-house in which they invest precious time.
Combine Two or More Types
The best practice today is to use a combination of “owned, earned, paid media.” Use one media channel to amplify or extend another type. They need to work hand in hand.
According to AirPR and other industry veterans, the main link between these different forms of media is the ability to tell a compelling story to your audience. When you can use these various methods in tandem, you get converged media, which can be significantly more powerful than any one of these methods on its own.
Judy Luk-Smit, VP of product for AirPR explains, “Amplifying content through organic social sharing, traditional media relations outreach and online paid opportunities is the key to ensuring that your message isn’t getting lost in the noise. PR is typically responsible for social sharing and media outreach, but marketing can power that content through paid opportunities and email marketing.”
There is one difference in that description as it applies to small businesses. Smaller entities have always relied on owned and earned media to a large degree. Compared with their larger enterprise counterparts, they have had less of a single-minded focus on paid advertising traditionally.
And that’s a good thing.
It means that convergence comes naturally. We small business types never got over-reliant on advertising. We are used to doing more with owned and earned media.
4 Examples of Combining Paid, Owned and Earned Media
Here are four examples of ways to combine owned, earned and paid media, in a small business context — and make for more powerful marketing:
1.) Create content on your blog [owned]. Share it on Facebook [to generate earned]. However, you only reach a small percentage of your fan base organically. To extend your reach, make it a Sponsored Post for $40 or $60 [paid] to get wider visibility for it.
2.) Crowdsource some advice and tips from your customers or loyal community members, for an ebook on your website [owned]. Then share it on your company channel on Slideshare. And reach out individually by email to send a copy of the ebook to each community member who submitted a tip. Most will share the ebook with their social networks, as they will be proud of their contribution [and you generate more earned mentions].
3.) Pay some influencers [paid] to create interesting and shareable content for your company blog [owned]. Then amplify it heavily through social media [to generate earned mentions].
4.) Create special Facebook-only discounts [paid]. To take advantage of them, people must Like your page. Studies show that discounts are a primary reason people follow and interact with brands on social media. When they Like your page, you have their attention. That also means you now have the start of a relationship with them [leading potentially to earned media].
When you combine owned, earned and paid media it expands your reach. You get wider reach than from a single channel alone.
So don’t think about a single marketing technique in isolation, such as blogging. Or being active on Twitter. Think instead about how you can combine techniques.
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