A Simple And Impactful Way To Think About Different Types of Media

Submitted by Kip on Sun, 10/23/2011

I create and teach customized marketing seminars for a wide variety of businesses that cover diverse topics ranging from marketing strategy, social media and all things digital. Given the rapid changes taking place in the marketing world today, I sometimes have a tough time keeping up with what’s happening and what merits being included in my latest seminars.

One way I’ve discovered to help keep all of this in perspective is to use a simple framework that classifies any type of media that’s known as Paid, Owned and Earned. Let’s take a few minutes to review the differences between Paid, Earned and Owned so you can begin to use it to figure out your own marketing strategy and plans.

Paid Media - Let’s start with Paid Media since it’s been around the longest. The definition of Paid Media is just like it says – you pay for it. It includes traditional mass media (such as print, radio, TV, outdoor, etc.) as well as paid digital media (such as paid search like Google Ad Words). The best thing about paid media (assuming your creative is solid and you’ve developed the right media plan) is it can build your business as long as you’re willing to spend the money. The biggest downside of Paid Media is it typically has little or no retained benefit.

Think of it like getting into a taxi – it will take your business as far as you like as long as you’re willing to pay what’s on the meter but when the money is gone, you have to get out of the cab (plus you’ll never own the taxi).

Owned Media – Owned media isn’t a new concept – Jello started using it at the turn of the last century when they created recipes for different uses of the product. The concept has been updated for the current digital age with a wide variety of brand content such as videos, blogs, photos, etc. that will tell your Brand’s story in new and creative ways.

The greatest advantage of owned media is it’s relatively inexpensive to create and can theoretically go on and on like the Energizer Bunny. The biggest challenge in utilizing owned media is making sure your target audience actually gets the chance to see it (since you don’t have the ability to place it in a media channel like you do with paid media). Assuming they do see and love it, your next challenge is keeping it fresh so it remains engaging to them on an on-going basis.

Earned Media – Earned media is when your Brand’s content gets shared via the wide variety of digital platforms available today (such as video, blogs, forums, microblogs, reviews, etc. The goal of earned media is to have positive brand content and messaging produced and spread by others. Today that typically means unpaid influencers sharing stories about your Brand via third parties such as bloggers, tweeters and journalists.

Putting It All Together - No media is an “island to itself”. Paid, Earned and Owned interact with each other in attracting new users, engaging existing ones and creating advocates. What Paid, Earned and Owned all have in common are they enable your marketing team and fans to tell and share engaging stories about your Brand.

While Paid Media will always be a significant part of your marketing plan, Brand teams should be actively working to have a “balanced” portfolio of Paid, Earned and Owned media. Ideally, with the continued growth of digital marketing, a Brand team’s long-term goal should be to reduce media spending over time by creating engaging content that will help recruit fans and empower advocates to spread the Brand’s message to others. And it doesn’t matter what new technology comes along in the future – the Paid, Owned and Earned marketing communication model is here to stay.

What To Do Now – I don’t think all Brands should necessarily be actively involved in creating and executing a social media plan. That depends on a number of factors, such as the type of category, target consumer, marketing objectives and other considerations. The trick to social media is once you’ve started, you can’t stop it without potentially serious consequences to your business. But I do think there are three things all Brand teams should do in this new dynamic world of Paid, Owned and Earned media: 

  • Create and Deploy A Content Development Strategy – What are you doing to enable other to learn about your Brand? What are you doing to encourage your biggest fans to create and share great stories about your brand? This is not going to happen on its own – you’re going to need to get it started and keep it going. There are plenty of inspirational content marketing examples our there already – being able to seek them out and re-apply best practices from other brands should be a high priority for your Brand team.
  • Be Ready for A Digital Marketing Crisis – This starts with monitoring online marketing channels to see what consumers are saying about you and your competition. There are plenty of free and affordable ways of doing this. You should have a clear plan if you unfortunately happen to get caught up in a digital media crisis (such as what happened in 2010 when two Domino’s employees were tampering with several menu items, filmed it and put it on YouTube). You should have clearly established policies and communication plans that are reviewed and rehearsed before a real crisis begins, since if it ever does starts, every minute counts. 
  • Keep Your Team Trained and Engaged – While this suggestion is obviously self-serving since I teach seminars, nevertheless you should invest in keeping your team’s digital marketing training (as well as with your management) up to date on the latest trends, learnings and case studies. Given the rapid pace of change, an annual, customized digital marketing workshop with current case studies and team activities can pay on-going dividends for your business (and well as your team’s professional development).

There’s never been a more exciting and challenging time to be a marketer. With the right on-going training and strategic planning, it can also be the most rewarding for your Brand and business.