Earned, Owned or Paid Media Channels. Also Known as: PR, Social Media or Advertising.

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How can brands successfully connect with and continue to highlight relevant content for their audiences? One way is to not abandon a traditional communications approach and weight all of your efforts on social media platforms that are continually changing. It is important to maintain a balanced mix. Companies should not rely too heavily on Facebook, Twitter or even the new Vine platform to tell their brand and product stories. While it may seem like an urgent priority to have a strong social media strategy in place— it’s also important to not disregard the traditional channels that consumers turn to when making purchasing decisions. Print outlets, TV and online blogs that drive consumers to your owned channels are still very relevant.

For a holistic approach, brands should strategically plan and execute on a multi-channel practice that includes leveraging earned, paid and owned media channels in the right way and at the right time. And for those owned media channels — your Flickr page, Twitter feed and Pinterest board— don’t solely rely on a junior person to manage this content because it seems cost-effective. These platforms should be professionally managed by someone that understands the audience, message and purpose, keeping the content relevant and meaningful to support the brand position. It’s the same rules that apply for traditional pr channels. Relevancy, timeliness and motivating content is key.

We’ve listed below definitions for paid, earned and owned media channels as a refresher if you are looking for additional ways to influence a variety of stakeholders, including customers, partners, employees, investors and the media.

Paid:

Like the name denotes, this type of media is paid for— it’s your print, tv, radio and online digital advertising campaigns that you pay for space in a publication, on a broadcast station or through an online digital advertising buy. Companies usually leverage paid media to launch a new product or service or to continue building a brand image with its target audience. With paid, you control 100% of the brand messaging. This channel is still tried and true— don’t think that just because you have an earned and owned media plan in place that you can get away without paid media. The best brands in the world still rely on paid channels to establish their company and connect with the consumer. Because you are pushing a communications agenda, often earned and owned channels do not drive enough engagement without a paid component to increase views. For example, even if you have a YouTube channel (which is technically an owned channel), you are not guaranteed to get the views you want without putting some budget dollars into a paid campaign. In fact, it can be very cost effective to use paid media to push your owned channels.

Earned:

Earned media is considered the most influential because it is from a neutral third-party, such as a reporter who has written a story on your company or a customer who has shared your video through their personal channels. Earned media may highlight your company and/or product in a newspaper story, television clip, radio feature or blog post. An earned media placement is so valuable because of its reach through circulation (level of influence based on the publication’s audience) and impression value of that particular story. What makes earned media highly credible is that the company doesn’t control the message, even though there are certainly ways to influence it greatly.

Owned:

Owned media includes a company’s website, blog, microsite and the multitude of social media platforms, including Tumblr, Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Google+, Instagram, Vine and more. The traditional owned channels— including a website or microsite— usually provide a person’s first impression when connecting with a company. Owned social media channels provide an informal way to connect with your audience who can connect with a company in a variety of ways, from sharing, commenting, liking and tagging. When disseminating material through an owned channel, it helps if the content isn’t blatantly self-promotional but instead informative, entertaining and/or educational. You have to always ask yourself what the benefit is to your audience when you are creating content for your owned channels.

Through a combination of paid, earned and owned media channels, companies can connect with customers on a continual basis to stay relevant in today’s ever-changing media landscape. It’s striking the right balance, tone and timing that encourages the most engagement and ultimately a connection with today’s consumer.

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