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Connect the dots: The convergence of paid, earned, and owned media

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In the first article of this series, How to become the best modern communicator: a series in best practices, we talked about some of the issues communications pros face today. Silos among teams are one problem that many organizations face, agreed Cision’s Steve Arentzoff, VP of digital marketing, and Nick Bell, VP of marketing communications.

But while most companies see silos across departments — or splitting up marketing, PR tasks, and measurement — they can also happen when it comes to media investment type, diversification, and the measurement metrics used to benchmark each type of media.

Paid, earned, and owned media are all important investments in a well-rounded comms strategy, and it’s only now comms pros can connect the dots between them rather than treat them separately. Bell and Arentzoff share insights on how the comms industry is changing for the better with regard to media, as well as provide tips on how your organization can link these three types of media together and leverage them more effectively.

Earned media: no longer a black hole

Bell: I’m amazed at how earned media and PR have evolved. A couple of decades ago, comms pros were printing and physically mailing press releases, often wasting money, and never hearing back from journalists. Even just a few years ago, they were frustrated with the lack of proof their efforts were paying off for the brand.

Cision has been a part of the major shift that has happened in terms of being able to measure earned media results. Being able to show analytics for media mentions gives the PR department ammo to take to executives to get buy-in for additional budgets. As I mentioned in the first article in this series, comms is on the verge of a revolution thanks to amazing advances in using tech and data to prove hard, bottom-line value for the brand.

Paid media: amplify earned mentions

Arentzoff: Like Nick, I’m thrilled to be a part of this new comms revolution, and it’s cool to see how earned media is now able to leverage the same methodologies for campaign planning, execution, measurement, and ongoing optimization that digital marketing lives by. Paid media plays a very important role in the marketing mix, and social media advertising is incredibly effective right now, particularly sponsored content.


You can take earned media and share it on your news page to show your brand is a hot commodity

Nick Bell


While earned media has always been important, it is very exciting to see it being integrated more tightly within a comprehensive multichannel marketing campaign, and even unlock new highly efficient and targeted paid delivery opportunities. Plus, the earned components can also be managed and measured with the same discipline and ROI expectations as the paid components of the campaign.

For example, let’s say you got a great media mention in The Washington Post you’re particularly proud of. By amplifying that link on your Facebook page through a paid ad, you can get it in front of more of your target audience who might not have otherwise heard of your brand. Or you can purchase display advertising to those people who were exposed to the Post story, helping reinforce and amplify the coverage the earned mention created.

And because you’ve got those great analytics built in with paid media, you can see exactly how effective that boosted post was in helping you reach a goal.

Owned media: you control the message

Bell: To connect those dots even further, look at owned media. This is the content you publish on your own properties, such as your website. While it’s great to have media mentions on other sites, the real win is when you send traffic to your own site or blog. This helps acquire a new audience for your brand, so you can then engage them with content that propels them through the buying process. It also helps to engage and educate customers, reducing churn and increasing customer and brand loyalty.

You can take earned media and share it on your news page to show your brand is a hot commodity. You also can write a blog post roundup with links to all the media mentions you’ve gotten. Not only does this show off your brand’s expertise, but it’s also a good SEO strategy.

This trio refuses to be separated

Arentzoff: Yes, technology and digital marketing strategy has lent itself to combining earned, owned, and paid media in innovative ways, but it’s nearly impossible now to separate them, and that’s a good thing. When one reinforces or even enhances another, there’s no reason to separate them as different marketing or PR activities.

The way these three complement each other paves the way for marketing and PR pros to align goals and deliver a level of business impact the channels working independently never could.

Having deep insights into one can color the approach you take with the other two. For example, seeing the analytics for a media mention on a particular topic can inform you as to whether your audience is receptive to that topic or not. If so, you can create additional content on your blog (owned) around that same subject, or invest in pay-per-click or social media ads to rank for that term or boost that content (paid).

The granular data about who is reading and engaging with your content is not only helpful in shaping your communications strategy, it also should inform how you purchase media to either reach new audiences, or adjust to reinforce messaging to target audiences with whom you are not breaking through.


Now that the earned coverage has piqued their interest, you can create engagement campaigns that deliver top-of-funnel materials in front of them through targeted re-marketing campaigns

Steve Arentzoff


Bell: And combining paid, earned, and owned directly supports the lead sales funnel for B2B marketers. When you pay for advertising – for example, those boosted posts – you’re paying for the privilege of connecting with new consumers that fit your target demographic. Running earned media campaigns that are integrated with paid efforts opens up opportunities to reach new audiences that would be difficult or impossible to reach otherwise.

Prospects who may read an article online have a connection created that can increase curiosity about your brand and increase the opportunity to engage with them.

Arentzoff: Now that the earned coverage has piqued their interest, you can create engagement campaigns that deliver top-of-funnel materials in front of them through targeted re-marketing campaigns. In this way, you can get them to subscribe to your blog, follow your social profiles, or visit your website to learn more about your brand. From there, your owned channels can play their role to convert this incremental traffic to leads or a shopping cart transaction. This is a powerful example of how the integration of earned media with paid and owned can open up new sales opportunities that wouldn’t be available otherwise.

How to connect the dots between paid, earned, and owned media

Just because these three types of media can work together doesn’t mean every company is doing its part to make it happen. Here’s how you can be more effective at having a cohesive communications approach.

  • Align marketing and PR goals, assigning tasks across departments or combining them.
  • Leverage earned media with both paid advertising and by hosting on your (owned) site.
  • Analyze data and insights to shape future campaigns.
  • Use tools and technology that provide deep analytics to help you meet goals.


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