Wednesday 2 May 2012

Paid, Owned And Earned Media: What Are They And How Do They Interact?

In the last few years a division has occurred in the marketing/media world between the different types of media out there. The division was initially made by execs inclined towards making new marketing models, but has now been picked up by the marketing mainstream, hence why I'm blogging about it.

So the various media out there have now been classified into 3 categories:

  1. Paid media - This is the traditional paid advertising of TV, billboard, radio and online display. This media has been criticised for being simply "interruption marketing", whereby the user experience is hijacked by an advert for something the user doesn't want or need. Paid media has also been criticised for being too "one-way", and for not encouraging a conversation (however this may not be true - see below).

  2. Owned media - This is the "owned" property that the brand completely owns and has total influence over. A brand's portfolio of Owned media can include a website, a YouTube channel or a Facebook page. What makes Owned media distinctive is that the brand has complete control over it. But, as we shall see, just because there is total control doesn't mean that it isn't influenced by other media.

  3. Earned media - This is the channels where you have little or no control over, such as blogs, SEO, forums, social media, and, most crucially, word-of-mouth. Earned media is where the conversation about your brand takes place; in a low trust world, it's where the real brand equity and value can be acquired. Earned media has been suggested as an alternative name for "SEO", since many SEOs are now concerned with all the channels of unearned media not just SEO. Despite this suggestion, inbound marketing is considered a more accurate description for the expanding SEO role.

So these are the 3 media types to be used, or attempted to be used, by the 21st Century marketer. So what is the key to understanding them? IMHO it is that despite the differences between them, they are all linked.

So, for example, if someone mentions Facebook in a meeting, do they mean community (Earned media), FB ads (Paid media), or FB pages (Owned media)? Or all three?

Or how about advertising (Paid Media)? Traditionally advertising was intended to drive visitors to the product/store/website (Owned media). Now, a clever, shocking or downright entertaining advert (Paid media) can stimulate conversation about a brand in many different channels (earned media).

An example of this is BMW cars with their April Fools ad campaigns. If you look at Google Insights online, you will see a spike of searches for BMW at the start of every April. Why is that? It's because BMW have become known for their funny April's Fools jokes, such as the M3 Royal Wedding Edition last year, which came in Royal Blue... The conversation about this year's BMW April Fools ad was played out in the Twittersphere.

This is an example of Earned media, that is: buzz and conversation, being converted directly into search engine traffic for the BMW site. Did they get any sales out of it? Probably not immediately, but in terms of branding, the exercise was very valuable.

So there is a feedback loop going between all three types of media - Paid, Owned and Earned. Positive Earned media coverage is the gold that all marketers are currently searching for, but have we have seen, all three types can interact and interdevelop in ways that are still emerging.

About The Author: Steppes Discovery are one of the leading wildlife holiday companies in the UK. They run conservation travel trips all over the world.

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