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Good PR professionals know that creating engaging content is foundational for brand recognition. In fact, the essence of effective public relations is to garner positive, broad awareness of a brand.

Traditionally, good PR focused on achieving one clear outcome: convincing a third-party, usually a journalist or analyst, to write a good story on your client. Today, with different media types available, PR professionals have more options at their fingertips to help promote a brand. 

No matter what the size of your business, using a mix of different media types is a highly effective way to build brand awareness. Media types are generally described as three main categories: paid, owned and earned. Each media type offers different amounts of reach and scalability and uses different amounts of budget, time and effort to create impact. Each media type also has specific relevance to how your PR efforts help move customers through your sales and marketing funnels.

Combining paid, earned and owned media is important to make sure the right audience sees your content and that enough numbers of the right audience see your content. Achieving that balance will deliver your business stronger brand awareness and better lead generation.

What are the differences between paid, owned and earned media?

There’s no doubt that blending all three media types will help grow your brand, attract new business and keep existing customers. While all three are valuable components of any marketing and PR plan, it’s important to understand the differences between each media type.

Paid media is when you pay money to use a third-party channel to share your messages. Examples include sponsorships, paid search results and paid advertising on websites or social media networks.

Owned media defines the content types across locations your business fully controls. The most obvious example of owned media is your website. Blog sites and social media channels, which extend your online presence beyond your website, are also examples of owned media.

Earned media describes any content generated for your brand that you haven’t written, or paid for, directly. This media type is always published by a third-party, such as press, analysts or customers. It is defined as ‘earned’ because when third parties like what you’re saying or doing so much, they’re prepared to publicly endorse your brand. That is, you’ve ‘earned’ their mention. Examples of earned media include press releases, influencers, social media posts, a news story or a TV news segment.

How paid, owned and earned media can help your business

When designing PR campaigns to grow a brand, it is rare for stand-alone tactics to succeed. The same is true of paid, owned and earned media. Think of the three media types working together as a three-legged stool. Each has an individual role to play in amplifying brand awareness efforts, but each is also strengthened when integrated with the other media types and with the rest of your marketing strategy.

The three types of media help business grow because each supports a different part of the sales and marketing funnel. Strategically combining media types improves the volumes of leads coming to your business and the speed of lead conversion through the funnel. Gaps in any area will reduce your effectiveness in drawing customers through the funnel to the point of making a purchase.

Paid media, because its possible to specifically target the unique audiences you want to reach, is ideal for reaching customers and prospects across every stage of your sales and marketing funnel.

Owned media is a powerful tactic to engage audiences who are already moving through your funnel. This audience already knows your brand and, therefore, are ready to consume content that is a layer deeper than brand awareness.

Earned media, by virtue of third parties talking about your brand, is ideal for attracting new audiences into the top of the sales and marketing funnel. Imagine how instrumental the right influencer could be in spreading your brand’s reach to new audiences and boosting your brand’s credibility.

Does my business need all three media types?

Best practice PR plans generally include paid, owned and earned media types for three reasons. First, today’s audiences read content on multiple platforms. Sometimes audiences are loyal to a particular platform but often audiences skip between platforms. If you use only one media type, you risk losing some of your audience attention.

Second, the marketing rule of 7. This age-old marketing rule states that an audience needs interact with your brand an average of 7 times before making a purchase[1]. Following that logic, the more media types your business uses, the more likely your target audience is to see your brand and interact with your content.

Third, average attention spans are diminishing. It’s possible your audience will skim over content delivered through one media type, only to engage with it through another media type. For example, someone could easily miss your marketing message in their LinkedIn news feed, but if their favourite Instagram influencer mentions your brand, they suddenly notice your content.

Given that each media type influences a different part of the sales and marketing funnel, we recommend clients to integrate at least two, but preferably all three, media types into PR plans.

An example of paid, owned and earned media working together

Combining all three media types together provides a highly effective strategy to grow your brand awareness and generate leads. Here’s an example of using all three types together to grow awareness and generate leads for a new solution your business is launching. Your marketing plan might include tactics to:

The more media types you use to share your company’s messages, the more likely it is you’ll contact the target audience at the right point in their buying process to help nurture their interest or close a sale.

More information about paid, owned and earned media

While successful businesses usually include all three media types in their PR plans, few start out with all three working smoothly together. It can take some testing and trialling to figure out what combination has most impact on your brand awareness plans.

If you’d like to learn more, the Write Away Communication team offers expert public relations advice to get the most impact from the budget, time and energy you invest in paid, owned and earned media. Contact us to set up a time to talk more.