Traditionally, brands wanting to reach out to buyers, build desire and equity have had three key channels to play with: paid, earned and owned media.
As converged media strategies become the only option for effectively reaching today’s ‘always-on’ consumer, the role of ‘owned’ media as the foundation for your story told across multiple channels/platforms has never been so essential.
Terms of engagement
So what do marketers need to know about paid, earned and owned – and how do they combine to form an effective strategy? Let’s start with a look at what these three terms mean, and their impact on audience engagement.
Paid media, or advertising has traditionally been the bedrock of most marketing initiatives, with investment (often sizeable) allowing brands full control of messaging as well as instant and ongoing access to large and targeted audiences. Although still very potent, particularly at delivering impact and scale, the effectiveness of this channel has been decreasing as consumers gain greater control of their media consumption, seeking richer and more direct engagement with brands, in place of the disruptive messaging that we traditionally associate with advertising.
Earned media, getting others to spread the message for you, includes word of mouth or user-generated content. While regarded as having greater influence than paid media, it’s often the more elusive. As suggested by the name (you can’t just throw money at it), a brand has to work hard to earn the praise, or recommendation of others – or pay a good PR firm to earn it on their behalf! [Note: for some ‘shared media’ is itself a fourth channel, although for the purposes of this article we’ll consider it to be part of earned media – after all it only really happens (in the positive sense) when you have earned it!]
Owned media refers to all of the channels owned or fully controlled by a brand – from company sites, blogs, social media and YouTube channels to magazines & brochures. The influence of owned media has grown significantly in recent years and continues to do so at pace, with brands taking full advantage of the growing number of platforms available to them; and more importantly, investing heavily to produce content of real value for their customers.
Owning your story; fuelling your content marketing strategy
As the various channels become increasingly entwined, reflecting the ever-changing journey for consumers as they discover and engage with brands, marketers are required to deliver a consistent story or message across a multitude of platforms and devices.
For today’s leading brands, ‘owned’ forms the core of this activity – Red Bull is a great example of this with its market-leading action sports magazine, Red Bulletin (global print circulation: 2.5 million per month), being just one strand of their hugely successful media empire.
Brands are now using owned channels to both tell their story in precisely the way they want it told, and offer customers content they value, presented with a richness and colour that once required the support of established media companies but now can be achieved in-house. Like it or not every company these days is a media company – we’re all publishers now!
Delivering compelling content through your site, blog, YouTube, social or other channels helps in all manner of ways. It attracts customers and lets them know who you are. It helps and encourages customers to pass the (right) story on. It ensures your wider team (including agencies) understands the story and can nurture and amplify it for you (earned media). And finally, if and when you invest in paid media, it’s the perfect place to guide those masses of new customers to, somewhere they will get a true understanding of who you are and why you’re relevant to them.
The three ‘S’s: story, strategy, synergy
Investment in owned media will help you build a solid foundation on which to build audience and engagement across channels. There’s plenty to think about in executing it well (more on this in coming posts), but begin by considering the following:
Story: Firstly, make sure you have a story that is worth being told – it might sound simple, but it takes time and effort from you and your team to build an over-arching narrative that is truly compelling, authentic and worthy of amplification.
Strategy: Secondly, in devising your content marketing strategy, think first about your customer or consumer – what is it they want – information, education or entertainment? In the context of your own story, what are you best positioned to provide? For example, Red Bull’s story as the drink that gives you wings, lends itself well to adrenalin-fuelled content showing how people ‘with wings’ (or Wingsuits at least) spend their time: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zJsvml3jdBo.
Synergy: Finally, and probably the greatest challenge as lines continue to blur between converging channels, is the task of aligning your teams – both internal and external – around the need to provide a seamless brand experience for the customer.
As a content marketing agency, we are working with a growing number of leading PR firms to build owned channels on behalf of clients – a relationship that works well in combining our creative talents, producing original content, with their networking talents, nurturing that content across multiple ‘earned’ audiences.
For many clients there is still a long way to go in breaking down the silos that remain from the distinct channel focused teams of old, but it is absolutely essential to do so in order to keep up with our always-on consumer.
It would be great to hear your thoughts and questions on the subject. Leave a comment below or e-mail Speak Media’s client director, Paul Williams.