Finding the Sweet Spot Between Owned, Earned and Paid Media

50 years ago only the biggest brands had media placement, nowadays there’s lots of opportunities for small businesses to use owned earned and paid media, but how do you strike the perfect balance?

What we will cover

Until quite recently, most businesses had to rely on paid media (TV. Radio, newspapers, billboards, etc.) for practically all of their advertising needs.

Today’s marketing mix looks very different with the emergence of company owned websites, blogs and social media pages and an active community of social media influencers with the power to amplify messages (which can be a double edged sword).

Today’s business owners and marketing teams have to strike a fine balance by allocating resources to owned earned and paid media and measure the effects on their bottom line.

Owned Media

Businesses owning media is a very new concept. With the exception of perhaps a local newsletter and the occasional bit of free PR, the pre-internet wilderness gave little scope for companies – especially small ones – to communicate their brands.

Today, even startups operating on a shoestring will have a website or blog, even if it is one of those horrendous drag and drop things that can be thrown up for – ahem – free.

Businesses are also increasingly setting up their own Facebook pages and Twitter profiles on top of (or even in place of) their website.

Anything which is unique and created by that company can be considered owned media including webpages, blog posts, social media posts, eBooks, white papers, webinars, infographics, videos and press releases.

Unlike paid media, owned media needs to provide something of value to readers and so should be less focused on promotion and more educational or informational in nature.

Businesses need to create a content marketing strategy aimed at stimulating earned media. This can be achieved using search engine optimisation (SEO) to improve online visibility and quality content to encourage engagement.

Earned Media

Earned media covers the exposure a business gets through other sources. In terms of social media this includes reposts, likes, @mentions, shares and retweets. Other forms of earned media include customer or industry reviews and recommendations and traditional methods of PR and other types of press coverage.

As a form of word of mouth marketing, earned media amplifies both owned and paid media. By appealing to industry or social media influencers, owned content can sometimes ‘go viral,’ bringing both short-term and long-term benefits.

Earned media, particularly social media engagements and reviews, can also provide a valuable insight into the voice of the customer.

Paid Media

Although businesses can still get results using the traditional forms of paid media mentioned earlier in this post, they now have the luxury of various types of online advertising and promotion to choose from – ideal for low budget SMEs.

Online advertising used to be synonymous with banner adverts but pop-up blockers have reduced their popularity. Most online advertising is now in the form of PPC (pay-per-click) campaigns such as Adwords. PPC enables powerful targeting and an appealing payment model with advertisers only paying when there has been measurable engagement.

Other forms of online advertising include retargeting, display advertising, sponsored social media posts, paid social media influencers and paid content promotion.

Measuring and Monitoring

Despite its many benefits, the multi-layered reality of 21st century media does pose a big problem when it comes to measuring effectiveness. In the past, companies could literally run a radio or newspaper ad campaign, record the costs, measure any increase in sales and work out their ROI (return on investment).

Today it can be tricky to work out which elements of a marketing campaign are delivering the results. Is it the quality content that is being produced, the paid ad campaigns or the spin-off earned media from one or both of these sources?

This is where analytics software comes in. Most large social media platforms, including Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Twitter, all have their own internal dashboards to help businesses track which pieces of content performed the best in terms of engagement.

There are also plenty of third-party analytics and social media management software providers. These all have slightly different features, for example:

  • Categorising earned media by channel (paid social media, PPC ad, organic search, etc.)
  • Categorising earned social media by platform.
  • Identifying most effective posts.
  • Analysing and displaying share of voice (equivalent to market share but based on online brand conversations).
  • Advertising Value Equivalency (a formula used to determine how much PR and other earned media would have cost if they had been advertisements)
  • Analysing brand sentiment
  • Displaying sentiment share of voice (how liked your brand is compared to others)
  • Detecting most influential followers (these can then be nurtured as potential brand advocates)
  • Identifying most effective keywords and hashtags

Paid advertising platforms will also have inbuilt analytics while Google Analytics and similar monitoring software can be easily installed on most websites and blogs.

By running a combination of these tools, businesses can build up a picture of which of the three media types are performing best and which may require development.

If you visualise owned, earned and paid media as three circles within a Venn diagram, the sweet spot is where they intersect.

A healthy business will balance quality content production with carefully selected advertising campaigns, attracting plenty of earned media which then amplifies their message for maximum reach.

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