Thinking of getting media coverage for your business? Great choice. Using media to establish your brand is mandatory in today’s digital age. However, you need to do it correctly. Having a digital marketing plan is one of the only ways to put yourself on the path to success.
According to Forbes, brands need a strong digital footprint in order to succeed. “For a business to succeed in today’s world, it is important to have a strong digital footprint within the internet,” writes Forbes contributor, Newtek. “Without a digital marketing strategy in place, new client acquisitions, brand visibility, and impactful revenue generating opportunities will likely be damaged.”
In order to be effective with your digital marketing, you must have a digital marketing strategy. Without planning out each step of your marketing campaign, you are more likely to fail than if you did nothing in the first place.
Now, before you go creating a digital marketing plan, you need to understand the different types of media that you can incorporate. The trifecta of a great digital media plan includes earned, owned, and paid media. Using these three together is referred to as a converged media strategy.
Earned, owned, and paid media are three separate parts of a digital media plan. However, they all work together to help build your brand. Image courtesy of Curata via SlideShare.
Make sure you are using all three media types in order to be effective and increase your likelihood of obtaining qualified leads. Converged media includes combining the following types of media:
- Earned Media
- Owned Media
- Paid Media
“The importance of a well-balanced marketing mix can’t be overstated …Where should you be spending your dollars? Spend them on creating an ecosystem of paid, owned, and earned media.” – Daniel Newman via Forbes
“Developing a plan to promote your content across paid, earned, and owned media before you even create it is not just a best practice – it’s necessary to be an effective content marketer.” – Matthew Gratt, BuzzStream via Content Marketing Institute
So what is the difference between earned, owned and paid media?
When it comes to earned, owned, and paid media, “earned media” is the most sought after. This is the publicity you receive through efforts outside of paid media. An example is when a publication decides to write a featured article about you based on you contacting them through a media outreach campaign.
Earned media is anything that is NOT generated by the subject and NOT paid for by the subject.
Keep in mind that earned media is not just about publications writing stories about you. It is also heavily consumer focused. Earned media can include reviews from customers as well as people talking about you on social media or online forums.
“Many marketers know that customers and prospects value earned media as a trusted source when learning about a brand or product,” – PR Newswire
Ultimately, earned media is the most rewarding. It means that someone is willing to talk about you and you didn’t have to pay them to do so. You will understand earned media even better once we get into the definition of paid media.
In a study by Outsell, Inc., commissioned by PR Newswire, it was found that 81 percent of marketers find earned media as effective as paid media. According to the study, marketers also know the trust factor involved in earned media.
Owned media is something you generate on a website that you control. It can consist of your website, social media page (your actual profile page, not what others are saying on the social network), and blog.
The great thing about owned media is you control it 100%. You decide what is posted there, not the editor of a publication or someone chatting about you in a forum.
Owned media is a great way to increase SEO and showcase your expertise. I also consider guest posting on another website a form of owned media. Although you do not own that site, you control what your writing profile says, so it is a form of digital branding that you have control over.
To be effective at owned media, you need to have a content marketing strategy in place. Content marketing is one of the first forms of online marketing that people do to help brand themselves. If done right, it is inexpensive and will help you get organic search traffic from Google. But, as you will see, content marketing is not the only effective form of digital marketing.
Paid media comes in various forms, but all include paying someone to post content about you or your company. Do not confuse paid media with paying a publicist to obtain earned media for you. Even though you may pay someone to do your media outreach, that would still be considered earned media.
Now, when I talk about paid media, I generally refer to the three most common forms – press releases, sponsored posts (native advertising), and digital advertising.
Press releases are self-explanatory. You simply pay an agency to distribute your story to news organizations. Various websites associated with press release distributors also reprint the press release and make it available for writers who want to write about you more in-depth. The goal of a press release is to spark the interest of a publication that reaches out for more information and turns your efforts into earned media.
Sponsored posts (often referred to as native advertising or branded content) are where you go if your press release isn’t picked up by any journalist. You simply pay a publication to write a story for you. Most of the big media publications have sponsored content, including Business Insider, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and Forbes.
Digital advertising is the term I use to refer to all content that is not native advertising or press releases. It can include paying for banner ads on websites, mobile advertising, and social media ads. While many don’t consider this part of “media,” I most certainly do. Here is why.
Any banner ad or PPC campaign you run can be used to generate traffic to your other media. In essence, it is the teaser headline that gets people to read the other content. So, I consider it an extension of all other forms of media and therefore include it as part of my digital media plan.
So which type of media do you get the most benefit from? Simple. You must use all forms of media to get the most benefit from your digital media plan.
Here are the benefits of each and why you should utilize all forms of media in your strategy.
Benefits of Using All Three Media Types
There are four words I use to describe the benefits of using media in your digital marketing strategy:.
Keep in mind that you cannot get all of these benefits if you only use one type of media. Let me show you how it works.
1. Quickness (Owned & Paid)
Sometimes you want your message out there quickly. Unfortunately, earned media doesn’t work that way. You will need to pitch your story to publications, wait for them to accept, then write content. And, then wait for an editor to publish the story. This could take weeks and often-times months (one story that featured me in the media took more than a year from the time I was first contacted).
In order to get your message out there quickly, you will need to utilize owned and paid media. Write a blog post and send out a press release. These are two of the quickest. You can then share on social media and use various other methods to promote the content.
2. Trust (Earned & Paid)
Trust in the media is at an all-time low. The click economy has caused media outlets to publish whatever headline they can, in order to attract readers. But, don’t confuse “trust in media” with “trust in brands.”
Let’s assume you read about a company that sells coffee. In fact, you read that they are selling the world’s best coffee (a little treat for Elf fans). You read about this in three different places.
The first is the company website, the second is in an advertisement, and the third is in a feature story in The New York Times. Which are you more likely to believe?
Reading something on a company website is not really credible to most people. After all, it’s their website and they can say anything they want. Not really a trusted source. An advertisement is a little better as at least you have a feeling that publications generally won’t allow advertisements from those they consider fraudulent. Now, reading something by a journalist in The New York Times, that’s different.
People will trust an article more than any other form of media. They see it is independent of the company (as it’s not on the company website) and unbiased (as it’s not paid for).
Results of a 2015 study from Contently showing the percentage of people who confused native advertising with an article. Image credit – Contently
Sometimes paid media can be mistaken for earned media by those who read it. A 2015 study by Contently showed that most readers have a difficult time of telling the difference between native advertising and an article on sites such as Forbes. In fact, 80% of people surveyed said they thought a native advertisement for Mercedes in the Wall Street Journal was actually an advertisement.
Based on the Contently study, I often advise clients to go heavier on paid media in their digital marketing strategy. I do this in order to jump start their brand. Once they establish an online presence, I then move them into more earned media and less paid media. A perfect example of why you may need to adjust your media strategy is based on previous results and your current digital footprint.
3. Control (Owned & Paid)
The great thing about having control is that you determine what your audience sees. With earned media, you do not.
For instance, earned media includes online reviews from customers. You do not tell customers what to say as they write reviews based on their actual experience with you. Therefore, you do not control the message.
Paid media does not guarantee that you get to say exactly what you want. Websites have different standards and editorial process. This means that you control the message, but it has to be within that site’s guidelines.
I have never run into an issue controlling the message with paid media for clients. There are instances when we need to reword certain content or provide additional information to verify a claim but that is normal process for earned media as well.
On a side note, don’t try to use paid media to control your reputation if there is already negative information about you online. Paying for sponsored content, such as an article in major newspapers, can backfire. Other publications could pick up that you are trying to pay for positive press and run a story on their own (“earned media”) which highlights all the negatives you left out.
4. SEO (Earned, Owned, & Paid)
The SEO effect for digital marketing cannot be stressed enough. There are benefits for earned, owned, and paid media. Each one contributes to your search rank in different ways.
Combining all three gives you ultimate “link authority” on Google and will help you climb in search results. You can promote all three within each other to have a greater SEO effect.
Here is the best way to explain it.
Imagine you pay to have an article in the Business Insider. It is a sponsored post (paid media) but you want it to help with search ranking. You can promote the article through your own blog and social media (owned media) and then respond to comments left by others on the article (earned media).
You can also have links in sponsored posts. The more popular the post, the more authoritative the links will be seen to Google. You can link to them from your social media networks, your website, etc.
As you do this, you will not only benefit from increased organic traffic, but you will also build a stronger online presence, create a positive reputation, increase brand awareness and establish your business as the go-to resource for your area of expertise in your industry or community.
Final Word about your Digital Marketing Plan
While this seems like a lot of information to take in all at once, just remember that you don’t have to master all three media types to be effective. Simply implement all three in your digital marketing plan and make percentage adjustments based on your return to find the perfect balance.
Using one media form will help increase your digital footprint, but utilizing all three will give you exponential benefits. You will ultimately be able to craft the message you want people to know while branding yourself in the public eye. You will also get a tremendous SEO benefit from combining all three.
What media types have you used? Do you focus more on one type over another? Tell me about your success stories with any previous digital media plans you have implemented.