As digital marketing continues to soar, here’s a question I’m getting more often from business owners and start-up entrepreneurs: What’s the difference between paid, owned and earned media for promoting or advertising my business, and how do I make them work for me?
The whole “owned-earned-paid” thing is familiar to advertising and PR pros, but totally mysterious for millions of small business owners who’ve never really thought in those terms. Yet understanding the digital-world differences — and more importantly, how to deploy owned, earned and paid media simultaneously to grow sales — is critical today. Here’s my BizBest “cheat sheet” for business owners on owned, earned and paid media:
Owned Media Basics
Perhaps the simplest examples of “owned” pieces of online media real estate are your business website and Facebook page. You built ’em. You operate ’em. You own ’em. Done well, they’ll be nicely designed, easy to navigate and chock full of helpful information, articles, photos, videos and other compelling content that customers and prospects will find interesting. Other “owned” media would include any blogs, newsletters or additional social media accounts your business has.
The basic idea with owned media is to fill them with useful and engaging content that helps potential customers discover your business when they search for something online, or use their own social media channels. This is the realm of what’s called “content marketing,” which uses helpful, high-value information to draw people into your products and services.
Paid Media Basics
No surprise here. Paid media are the online ads and promotions you pay for with hard, out-of-pocket marketing dollars. This includes search and other pay-per-click type ads, banners and paid promotions on social media sites, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and others.
Using paid media is the more traditional approach that most businesses are familiar with. You set a budget, pick your channels and spend as you see fit, while tracking results as best you can.
Earned Media Basics
Public relations fits here. Issuing a press release that gets mentioned somewhere (either online or offline) “earns” you exposure that you didn’t have to pay for (at least not directly). But it gets trickier. The “earned media” piece is huge, and difficult to execute — yet it’s a critical leg of the marketing/media triumvirate.
Earned media can produce really good stuff; the attention and engagement you “earn” from customers but that can’t be (legitimately) bought. For example, great comments, recommendations, reviews, mentions, likes and shares are all valuable types of customer-generated media coverage that you must earn, and can’t (directly) pay for. This includes word-of-mouth, but amplified through the digital megaphone.
Making Owned, Earned and Paid Play Well Together
Owned, earned and paid media don’t exist in isolation. They overlap. In fact, your goal is to make them overlap and work together. For example, paid ads might attract people to your website or Facebook page where they see some interesting content they want to “like” or share. In turn, that engagement earns you more notice among the media. Thanks to the nature of social sharing, the interaction possibilities are almost endless as information passes from one person’s network to others. This is sometimes called “converged media” — the place where owned, earned and paid intersect.
To have an inkling of what’s going on here, business owners must first recognize that the way buyers research purchases and find businesses has changed radically, and rapidly. These things once occurred via isolated channels. But no more. It now happens through thousands of highly fragmented media channels on a 24/7 basis, often simultaneously as people occupy several digital platforms at once.
Big companies recognize this and now engage is what’s called “Brand Streaming” where they attempt to be absolutely everywhere, 24/7, monitoring what’s being done and said, and reacting quickly to any engagement by a customer or prospect (which is called “agile engagement”).
What to do now
First, don’t despair. It should already be abundantly clear that since consumer behavior has changed, marketing a product or service will never be the same. You will need to embrace new digital tools and tactics (including some from all of the above categories), and deploy them in as many places as possible.
Start with a firm foundation. Look for small wins that you can reasonably achieve in each category (owned, earned, paid) and build from there. Take it one step at a time. Don’t try to concoct some huge strategy that takes months to deploy. Test small things to see what works and what doesn’t. It’s easier, less stressful and more effective.Copyright 2000-2012, BizBest Media Corp. (@140Main) All Rights Reserved.
About the Author: Daniel Kehrer, Founder and Chief Content Officer of BizBest Media, is a senior-level leader in digital media, content development and online marketing with special expertise in startups, SMB, social media and generating traffic, engagement and leads. He holds an MBA from UCLA/Anderson and is a passionate entrepreneur (started 4 businesses), syndicated columnist, blogger, thought leader and author of 7 business and financial books.