Written by Karen Pearson
Published on 7th Jun, 2018
Who'd be a media planner these days? (Answer: someone who thrives on change). The world of both digital and traditional media is changing and growing in complexity daily. To help make sense of this fragmented landscape marketers have taken to categorising media as paid, earned or owned.
Paid media means advertising – all those 'old school' channels that seem so simple now – plus digital display advertising, pay per click, paid content promotion or influencers etc.
Earned media refers to any publicity you've gained through your efforts that you haven't had to pay for, such as third party news stories or mentions in the traditional media and positive online word of mouth and sharing.
Owned media covers the channels that you control, eg your website, mobile site, blog site and their content – newsletters, brochures, catalogues, white papers and ebooks.
So, here's an interesting question for you: Where do you think your social media efforts fit?
Most experts in the field would have you believe that social is a mix of owned and earned. You own your social channel audience, from which you earn shares and likes. We disagree. And the reason we disagree is, in a nutshell, control. Yes, you own and control your company profile page and the content you post on it. But you can't fully control what the social media channel will do with your content. And you can't access all the data that is available to that channel about your fans/followers and their behaviour in response (or lack of) to your content. And, of course, increasingly you must pay to reach your fans.
So, in the Lion's Share definition of paid/owned/earned, social media is a mix of paid and earned. Not owned. More like leased.
Owned is important because it's unique to your brand, you control it, and the more owned media you have the more digital presence you have. Each owned media channel provides more opportunities for people to interact with you.
No owned media strategy is an island. It must also mesh with your paid and earned (including social) media strategies. In fact, paid, owned and earned overlap significantly and can't really be completely teased apart. Think of 'owned' as the destination and 'paid' and 'earned' as methods for driving traffic to that destination. Paid and earned play a key role by creating initial awareness and generating early engagement, driving folks to your website, helping you capture their information and encouraging them to get to know you better and join your community.
The organisation's website forms the core component of an owned media strategy. Content is created to be housed on the website. SEO is optimised, then it is tweaked or cut into bite-sized pieces to suit the social media channels the brand is active on.
Smart marketers put as much – or more – time, effort and budget into their owned media strategy as they do into their paid and earned. Here are three things the companies that know and harness the power of their owned media channel have in common:
Firstly, they create an awesome context for their communication efforts by being very clear about who they are and what they stand for. They know what differentiates their brand from their competitors and they make sure that their brand promise is clearly communicated.
Secondly, they know who their audience is. They've worked out what excites them and where their pain points are.
And finally, their content is all about building a connection with their audience. They put aside their desire to push a product or service and instead deliver useful, and/or entertaining content of real value to the audience they have selected with their eye firmly on building a relationship with each and every individual on their database over an extended period. It's a long game, and they're happy to take their time. Turning a stranger into a brand loyalist and ambassador is a worthwhile prize.
Here's a couple of examples of simple, effective use of owned media, plucked from my own inbox:
This is an inspiring success story out of Sydney. Shoes of Prey founder, Jodie Fox has turned her shoe fetish into a global online business. Her platform allows women to custom design their own shoes online from a range of styles and materials. The shoes are then made by hand, one pair at a time, and delivered in a black box tied with a black satin ribbon.
Every week Shoes of Prey sends me an email. The purpose of these emails is not to sell, but to provide me with style inspiration. I feel drawn to this brand because I value the tips and advice they are sending. Shoes of Prey has worked out that the kind of women who buy shoes online are likely to be too time poor to buy fashion magazines or search out style blogs. They have drawn me into their brand's orbit by providing me with information of value.
The airport company has captured my email address because I regularly travel and make use of their parking services. The content is focused on letting me know what's new or improved at the airport – new retail, an upgrade to the arrivals hall, more baggage carousels, new airlines flying in to Auckland, charity initiatives the airport company supports and training programmes its staff are in engaged in.
The scope of the information served up is far greater than you would expect of a B2C communications programme. Why all the detail? Because the airport company knows its audience. They have identified me as a business traveller and a high user of their services – the kind of person who could also be an investor one day.
The strategy is smart. The target audience knows that the airport company understands their pain points and is constantly working to provide services that eliminate them. The audience not only feels understood – they come to understand the Airport company. By stealth, Auckland Airport has communicated what a solid investment their shares would make.
These two examples focus on electronic direct mail, which is of course only one tactic for building a kick-ass owned media channel. A range of tactics can dovetail together to serve an owned media strategy. You might focus on building a much-loved webzine. You might aim for the most inspiring case study series in your target geography and industry. Often exemplar companies will build a sense of community around their brand. In the B2C world this community may centre around a loyalty programme. The B2B equivalent is a relationship management programme.
Building an effective owned media channel takes commitment. It's much easier to pay for an ad or PR campaign or post some ad hoc content on social media and collect likes and shares. But that approach delivers you a single transaction, if you're lucky. It doesn't offer you the longevity or the control you need to build relationships.
If you take one thing from this blog, take this: Where your prospects and customers are concerned, be a control freak. Make sure you have access to the people you've worked so hard to bring into your orbit; and make sure you have visibility over the data pertaining to their interactions with your content.
Paid and earned are useful and cannot be ignored –– but owned is vital to your future as a brand with a differentiated and authentic voice and a loyal community.
Grab the oars, people. Take charge and row your owned boat.
Content marketing is a major focus for service and product businesses. Andrea Stevens discusses its editorial rather than advertorial focus, and reviews two excellent international examples.
One of the biggest truisms in communications is “know your audience.”