When it comes to the trio – paid, owned, and earned media, the most frequent question I am asked is: “Can you explain paid vs. owned vs. earned media? Which is ‘the one’ for my business?” While the knowledge of paid, owned, and earned media is critical for digital marketing success, most B2B marketers treat them as individual animals and pursue them as independent marketing streams. So what? They are three different critters, right? Not really. Digital marketing is no longer a single-strategy game. As such, the importance of a well-balanced marketing mix can’t be overstated. But, more on that later. First, let me give you a brief overview of each of them – paid, owned, and earned.
Simply stated, you pay for this type of media – tools like Google AdWords, or different types of search and display advertising, SEO and PPC campaigns, and so on. While this strategy calls for an extremely well-thought out plan and execution, it also needs to have compelling call-to-actions driven largely by customer benefits.
There used to be time when digital marketing was synonymous with paid media. Not anymore. While paid media has its place, times have changed and people have gone beyond responding to promo pitches and clever commercials. Now they are more interested in building relationships with brands they trust and they are seeking involvement with those brands regularly.
This is the media channel created by your business – the content that you own, in entirety. Think of it as the content featured on your website: your blog posts, the free whitepapers or eBooks that you offer, and any content that you are giving away in the hopes of winning new leads for your business. It also includes the content that you share on your company’s behalf across various social media sites.
To nail this part of the game, you need to have a strong content marketing strategy, and an equally strong social strategy to back it up. Typically, good content is a highly misunderstood term among B2B marketers, who are valuing the opinions of peers and industry organizations to judge their content trustworthiness, a recent study from the CMO Council and NetLine reveals. According to Donovan Neale-May, executive director of the CMO Council, “Buyers are not happy with vendors. Their content [tends to be] over technical, product-centric, and self-serving.” That’s too bad, considering marketing content is directed at buyers and prospects. Ignoring them altogether is inviting failure.
Earned media places customer into your media channel. The need for customer engagement reaches its pinnacle with earned media. It draws the attention of your prospects and customers, turns them into brand advocates and influencers, who will in turn push your brand before the eyes of more customers and potential brand advocates. You can even consider this the return of good-old “word-of-mouth marketing,” albeit with a modern twist.
Earned media, however, hardly ever works alone. You have to make it a part of your marketing ecosystem along with paid and owned media. The truth is: in today’s digital landscape, they either work together or they don’t work at all.
Build your marketing ecosystem with paid, owned, and earned
While earned media can be a great tool for marketing campaigns, or even for laying out an overall marketing strategy, I recommend that you focus on creating a holistic strategy comprised of all three. Create engaging, customer-oriented, and problem-solving content through owned media, with paid efforts, get that content strategically placed where it can be spotted by your target audience, and finally, earn the audience’s trust and support and turn them into your brand advocates.
Where should you be spending your dollars? Spend them on creating an ecosystem of paid, owned, and earned media.
This article was first featured on Forbes and can be found here.
Image: Creative Commons