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There is owned media and earned media. The two are not created equal. In this post, we’re going to look at the difference between owned media and earned media. (There is actually a third type of media—paid media, i.e., advertising and marketing. But we’re not going to touch on that subject in this blog post.)
While owned media is definitely worthwhile and a necessary tool in creating, branding, and building a business, earned media is the gold standard. The reasons why, and what you can do to get a share, should be obvious by the end of this post.
Owned media is the kind that you, as a business leader or company CEO or entrepreneur, own—and therefore control. In the Olden Days—that is, pre-Internet—there was comparatively little media that businesses could call its own. Press releases and newsletters were about the extent of it.
Today, however, it’s much easier—if more time-consuming and costly—to control the narrative. Websites, social media accounts and profiles, blogs, email lists, and mobile apps allow canny entrepreneurs and business owners (and their marketing and PR teams) to get ahead of the story and form the message they want to deliver to the world.
Let’s look at each, and some tips on how to get the most out of them.
Some examples of owned media include:
Websites. For many consumers and clients, this is the introduction to your message—the organization’s official website, where it can share information, products, services, and engage with its audience directly. One statistic that points to the importance of a website, at least in the retail space, is the number of business decisions that start with a search engine search—93%.
Since the advent of the website as a marketing tool, there have been about a zillion different variations on the format. But here are some things to consider when building a website:
- a bold, clear and easy-to-navigate landing page
- an “about” page that clarifies who you are and what your mission statement is, helping build your brand
- testimonials (on the landing page or on a separate page) attesting to the positives and benefits of your company/business
Social media profiles. While a website is often static, a brand’s official social media accounts is where the action is. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, TikTok—all can be used, in different ways (frequency, timing, engagement, content), to build brand awareness and communicate with the company’s target audience.
Blogs. Ah, the good old blog. Once upon a time, everyone and her marketing team had a blog but, with the growth of social media, longer-form posts seem almost quaint. (Sorry, livejournal.com.)
Blogs are still useful, however. They can be a testing ground for new thoughts, insights, and ideas. New platforms like Medium can disseminate blog posts to a wider audience. They provide an opportunity to build a community of like-minded thought-leaders. And for purposes of helping people find you, blogs are a valuable SEO tool.
Email Lists. In a way, email lists are a throwback to the pre-internet days when people could receive updates about companies via newsletters in their mailbox. Now, subscribers who opt-in receive the latest news and offers from and about favourite brands and preferred businesses in their inbox, allowing quicker and more direct communication to a targeted audience.
Mobile apps. Applications developed by your organization can build and engage your audience and increase sales. According to a 2022 marketing survey, nearly half of businesses and startups had an app in 2022, an increase from 32% the previous year. To start, a brand or business should have a strategy on driving app downloads. Compelling content will increase user engagement and activity.
Earned media is exposure that you and/or you company receives from others just for being you.
In other words, earned media is the payoff for all your other efforts, including the day-to-day functioning of your business or company, your paid advertising, your owned media, and your network contacts.
Some examples of earned media include:
Press coverage. How often have you seen a competitor or rival being interviewed or profiled in a respected publication or on TV, radio, or podcast and thought, “Why are they talking to them and not me?”
The reasons are many and varied. They could and often do include connections, networking, and convenience.
But they also include variables in your control such as social media presence, perceived expertise, and experience.
By making the most of your owned media, such as positioning yourself on social media channels as an expert, you are more likely to be top-of-mind for journalists who may be looking for someone to comments on new developments in your industry, or simply a good story that hasn’t been covered elsewhere. Some quick tips to earning press coverage include:
- create a strategy
- establish relationships with journalists
- participate in conferences and industry trade shows
- pitch newsworthy developments and unique selling propositions that your business or company offers
User reviews. Unsolicited mentions on platforms like Yelp, Google Reviews, and Amazon constitute a highly influential form of marketing. They’re also some of the most difficult to get. Ways to get user reviews include:
- asking your audience directly
- responding to all reviews, even the negative ones
- focus on customer service and user experience
- create interesting and engaging content
Social media mentions. When individuals or other organizations mention, share, or interact with your brand’s content on social media, this amounts to an endorsement, building brand credibility and presence. Many of the same tips for encouraging user reviews apply here.
Depending on your brand and goals, mentions by recognized influencers—people or organizations in your field with a wide reach— can be especially valuable. Some tips on getting influencer mentions include:
- follow influencers in your field and engage with them
- understand the kind of content that they promote
- collaborate on a promotional campaign
Owned media vs. earned media
By now, the differences between owned media vs. earned media should be clear. Because owned media is much more in your control, earned media is that much more valuable. Often, it rewards expertise, insight, superlative customer service, and forward-thinking policies. Third-party endorsements—basically, the heart of earned media—can be a challenge to achieve, but by following some of the practices mentioned above, you can come that much closer to earning the media of your choice. Specialized earned media agencies can also support you in finding and landing earned media.