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  • Angela Dobbie

Hitting the Media Trifecta: Owned, Earned & Paid Media

They say good things come in threes; trios, triangles, tripods, triplets, Trillium (ahem), tricycle, triads, triathlon, and trimester are all good examples. And don't forget the Three Stooges, the Three Musketeers, and the Holy Trinity. So it comes as no surprise there are three different types of media - owned, earned and paid - that work together to form a winning “trifecta” for growing your brand equity.

What is Owned Media?

Web page infographic
Your website is a very valuable owned media channel.

Owned media encapsulates all of the channels and platforms where your company controls the content. In other words, if you can update or change the content however or whenever you like, and don’t have to pay someone else to publish it, you “own” the channel (even if there's a hosting cost or subscription fee associated with it).

Examples of owned media include your company website (and SEO), social media channels, blogs, company newsletters, email campaigns, proprietary apps, internal TV or computer monitor network, building signage, and phone system scripts.

Benefits & Drawbacks of Owned Media

Owned media offers the benefit of being able to control the depth and timing of your published content without limitation or added expense. Owned media channels have relatively low costs to host, and because you control the content, you can update your channels quickly to suit changing business objectives.

Social media page infographic
Your social media channels help boost your brand.

Another benefit of owned media is you can use it to nurture your ideal audience as those who follow your owned media channels are already familiar with your brand. These followers are likely to support your content and take advantage of any new offers once you publish the information.

Owned media channels can also act as a content hub to support paid campaigns or buyer research. The information you share on these channels can be optimized to improve search results ranking when prospective buyers are looking for your products or services, or can also support critical stages of the sales cycle.

An unfortunate drawback of owned media is it generally takes longer to see results from your efforts as follower growth increases organically over time. This shouldn’t discount using paid media however, as the benefits outweigh the delay and the time will pass anyways!

Another consideration for owned media is it takes resources to maintain your channels to keep them current and provide value-added content, and depending on the scope of your operations, may require full-time staff or an external agency’s help.

What is Earned Media?

Social buzz infographic
Social buzz is a huge bonus for building brand equity.

Similar to owned media, earned media is free to your company when others publish your content. However unlike owned media, you can’t control the exact content or timing of earned media because it relies on others to share or publish your messaging as they see fit.

Examples of earned media include social media shares, tags, retweets and forwards, content that receives a lot of social buzz or goes viral, editorial articles that feature your company or products, positive online reviews, customer referrals, influencers or unpaid product placement that draws followers to your owned media channels, or mainstream media coverage of your company news.

Benefits & Drawbacks of Earned Media

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Mainstream & industry media coverage help too!

As P.T. Barnum once said, “There's no such thing as bad publicity”. This concept certainly applies to earned media; if your content is getting high levels of engagement, social buzz, or news coverage, it equates to free advertising as awareness of your brand spreads to new audiences.

The largest drawback to earned media is you’re unable to control when it grows or where it flows. Your content and messaging are basically subject to the mercy and whims of a fickle audience, so careful consideration should be given to trying to manipulate the system by publishing provocative content purely for the purpose of going viral.

What is Paid Media?

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Search ads are effective to find your customers.

Like the name implies, paid media is that which has an associated cost for publishing your content or corporate messaging on other company's distribution channels.

Paid media includes digital display ads (banner, skyscraper, pop-ups, etc.), search ads, paid social media advertising campaigns & boosted posts, advertorials, print advertising, video advertising, paid product placement in published materials, marketplace advertising, paid company profile listings, mobile advertising, retargeting, broadcast radio or television ads, and large format display signage.

Benefits & Drawbacks of Paid Media

The greatest benefit of paid media is its ability to quickly deploy your content and immediately reach a large target audience. In its digital form, paid media offers incredible targeting capability and A/B testing to help you optimize your ads

for best results. It also provides the ability to monitor campaigns, measure key performance indicators (KPIs), and report results.

Paid display ad infographic
Display ads on select sites can reach a wider audience.

When selecting a major publication with a large subscriber base (such as the Globe & Mail or New York Times), paid media can instantly boost the reach of your ad campaigns to a broad audience that you otherwise might not have been able to reach.

One of the drawbacks of paid media (beyond its inherent expense) is that it can get complicated very quickly as you run multiple campaigns and create custom target audiences. The added complexity of integrating pixels and tracking codes for customer retargeting further complicates things if you’re not up to the challenge of harnessing the full capabilities of paid digital media.

Hitting the Media Trifecta

Now that you’ve familiarized yourself with the three different types of media, and the benefits and drawbacks of each, you can begin to put them to work to grow your brand equity and increase sales. The slow growth of owned media matches the commitment required to manage it, the viral reach of earned media mitigates its uncertainty, the instant results of paid media offsets its higher costs, and the combined coverage of all three will have you feeling like you’ve hit the media trifecta because “where attention goes, the money flows!”

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