Using Owned, Earned and Paid Media to Share Your Good

By Dan Stone / May 24, 2017



In recent years, more and more companies have caught the vision of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). But while growth in this area is booming, the way companies promote the good they’re doing isn’t.

Too often businesses tuck their CSR messages in the back of their annual reports—nowhere else to be found. CSR programs bring trust and loyalty to your brand. These messages should saturate your marketing channels. They should appear prominently in your owned, earned and paid media.

You’ve probably heard these terms thrown around—owned, earned and paid media—but what do they actually mean? And, more importantly, how should you be using them in your marketing mix?

Content is king

Like any good marketer, you know how important compelling content is. But understanding the different types of content to offer your audience—and how to use them—is critical to leading your customers down the sales funnel.

Effective digital strategies combine earned owned, and paid media, which are all essentially just different types of content. Once you know the difference, it’s up to you to decide which makes the most sense for your brand, audience and goals.

But before we go any further, let’s define what earned, owned and paid media actually are. Then we can focus on how to fit them into your content strategy.

Owned Media

Own it

Owned media are the extensions of your brand that you control: your website, blog and social media accounts. The more owned media you have, the greater your influence in the digital world. More owned media provides more ways for people to interact with your brand. As long as you can maintain each avenue of owned media, the more the better.

The main goal of owned media is to nurture your leads. You do this by providing useful content through your digital channels. The more interesting and valuable the content, the greater your success will be.

But take heed of one caveat—don’t make your content too self-serving or promotional. It’s a sure-fire way to turn followers off. Make your content engaging and entertaining and you’ll build legions of fans. 

Earned Media

Earn it

Simply put, earned media is the equivalent of online word of mouth. It’s the exposure you earn when people talk about you on the web. This happens through press mentions, reviews, shares, reposts and content picked up by third-party sites. When combined with effective content marketing efforts, earned media will help put your company higher in search rankings.

According to author Erin Lanuti in “Unlocking the New Power of Influence”, peer-to-peer recommendations “drive about twice the amount of sales versus paid advertising, and earned media typically returns 7 to 10 times the ROI versus paid media because a third-party endorsement brings valuable credibility.”

Ultimately, earned media drives people to your owned media channels. After all, if no one visits your website or Facebook page, what good is it? 

Paid Media

Buy it

Paid media helps to promote content and drive earned media. And, like earned media, it helps push traffic to your owned media channels. With this type of media you buy advertising on social media sites like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook to boost your content and website.

Paid media includes retargeting (online advertising that keeps your brand in front of people once they leave your site), Pay Per Click (ads that you pay for when someone clicks on them) and display ads.

What this means for a purpose-driven company

In “Earned Media Can Yield Big Rewards for Philanthropy,” author Jennifer Risi reported on a survey from a Cone Communications/Echo Global CSR study. Here’s what she said about its findings: “70 percent of consumers are confused by the messages companies use to talk about their CSR initiatives. However the desire to understand them is evident—93 percent of consumers want to know what companies are doing to make the world better. This dilemma is one that earned media can help to resolve.”

Once you have your owned media properties in place (with your CSR message featured prominently), it’s time to integrate an earned media strategy. More than any other channel, earned media will help bring loyalty to your brand. Consumers trust peer recommendations and media much more than paid ads.

Then, once you’ve earned media, be sure to promote it across your platforms. Tweet about articles you appear in and share them on Facebook. And, when appropriate, use branded hash tags that promote peer participation and drive consumers to your paid and owned properties. Once there, they can read more about the social change you are helping to bring about. Who knows? You might just convert one more individual to your product and the causes your company supports. 

Thumbnails People Dan Stone

Dan Stone

Dan is an award-winning senior copywriter with more than 13 years of experience. He’s worked for agencies and companies in Idaho, Illinois and Washington, D.C. Dan’s clients have included the Smithsonian Institution, Comcast, Department of Defense and Virginia Tourism Corporation. He also uses his writing for good, whether recruiting others to help refugees locally or protect animals in Africa. You can usually find Dan pounding away at his keyboard, hunting for big ideas and causes to support.