Earned, Owned, Paid, Shared: Horsemen of the Apocalypse or Best Opportunity?

earnedownedpaidsharedmediaDramatic titles aside, the role of media in helping brands become more relevant online has entered a time where words like “convergence” and “integration” best describe the multiple channels, approach, and skill sets necessary to succeed.

The days of single device access to the Internet have given way to a range of connected devices including tablets, smartphones, and even cars and kitchen appliances. Ubiquitous connectivity plus the ease of publishing and interaction by both organizations and individuals can mean huge opportunity or apocalypse, depending on your perspective.

The challenge of attempting to serve the insatiable need for digital content may seem formidable, but the upside is tremendous. Companies that optimize their integrated media strategies and tactics to develop and scale digital media content wherever customers are looking and interacting will earn a substantial competitive advantage.

Optimizing a 360-degree experience for customers is going to require more from us as marketers. As the upcoming keynote speaker for SES San Francisco, Avinash Kaushik has said, “You can no longer be good at just one thing, or two. It is a 10-thing world now (and maybe a 20-thing world soon).” Multi-channel, multi-media, and multi-skilled are the baseline expectations for competitive marketing with digital media.

I know there are plenty of marketers cringing at the idea of adding even more “media” to the mix since paid, earned, and owned are more than enough to keep us busy. There’s a fear of how to manage activities across channels with plenty of reasonable questions about how the pieces fit together, who owns what, and how to best measure performance.

At the same time there are the forward-thinking optimists who see the shift in media for what it is; not gloom and doom, but an opportunity to build an approach that fully leverages changes in consumer use of technologies, how they’re influenced, and how they influence others.

Taking advantage of this broader and integrated media mix opportunity starts with a clear understanding of what these media labels mean:

Earned Media

Earned media is often the result of public and media relations efforts to “earn” coverage in industry publications, both on- and offline. In other words, it’s achieving editorial brand presence within media without having to advertise. Although it’s entirely possible and common that a brand would advertise in the same digital publication where they’ve earned coverage. An easy example would be a prominent mention in an article in a magazine, newspaper, or industry website like Fast Company, The New York Times, or our very own ClickZ.

Owned Media

Owned media is about brand control and includes digital media, content, and assets such as websites, blogs, newsletters, white papers, and social media accounts. Brands are increasingly behaving like publishers with editorial staff managing content creation teams. “Content marketing” is the hot topic when it comes to owned media and can facilitate brand information discovery through search and social channels. Content engages customers and fosters relationships throughout the customer lifecycle. Well-implemented owned media provides an opportunity for the brand to provide consumers an earned media experience while maintaining control over editorial. American Express OPEN Forum and General Mills’ Tablespoon.com are great examples of owned media.

Paid Media

Paid media is advertising and examples include display ads, pay-per-click search ads, and sponsorships. The pro for paid media is near on-demand implementation, some degree of control, and scale. The growing popularity of social advertising on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube adds another option for marketers to gain presence in channels where consumers and buyers are spending a lot of their time. The appearance of brand messages and content within paid media can work together with social sharing and organic search. From ads on the right side of Google.com to the horizontal ads above this column, paid media examples are pretty abundant.

Shared Media

Shared media is about the co-creation of content and media between brands and community. Brand social web participation and interaction with consumers on sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube that results in content is “shared media” since it’s a result of a shared interaction. Because of the nature of social sharing and engagement on social media sites, shared media can propagate across an individual’s network to others, and so on and so on. Paid and owned media can inspire shared media. Shared media can inspire earned media. One of my favorite examples of co-created or shared media is Dell’s IdeaStorm community.

Virtually all online marketing involves social media to one degree or another. The convergence of media and the need to integrate media types and channels in order to create and optimize a 360-degree experience that is meaningful and social is essential for optimizing the connection between relevant audiences and brand content.

Engaging consumers where they live online and in ways that they care about represents the path to helping brands become more relevant where it matters online. A holistic approach to media and what you do to optimize that media to attract, engage, and convert prospects to buyers and buyers to evangelists is more of a perfect storm than an apocalypse. The question is, are you ready to adapt and evolve to meet the challenge?

Variety of Photos image on home page via Shutterstock.

Related reading