The difference between owned, earned, shared and paid media

January 25, 2022


When you’re planning your content creation as part of any comms campaign, it’s important to think about how it’ll play out across all owned, earned, shared and paid media. It’s also important to remember that the same piece of content won’t always work across all four. Subtle tweaks might be all that is needed to ensure maximised return on investment across all channels. While they each have their differences, all areas can be of equal importance to a brand and its success.


What is owned media?

These are the channels you have complete control over. The ones that are yours (that you own), such as your website, social media channels, direct marketing etc. You can share any content you like across these and at any time. Of course, it all needs to be in line with your wider marketing and communications strategies and to support your work in the earned and paid channels, but the ball is firmly in your court on these.


The content across these channels can be more overtly sales-focused and should give a clear idea of the brand, who you are, what you do and what you stand for. The different formats of the channels need to be taken into account, not just for the digital content creation, although ensuring you’ve maximised your outlets with bespoke content (content made specifically with the various social platforms’ requirements and ways of consumption in mind), is key.


Think about the end consumer and how they will be experiencing these pieces of content. Put yourself into their shoes when planning how to create the optimal piece of content and how they experience it. And importantly, how it fits in with the other content that they will see about your brand, on earned and paid channels.



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What is earned media?

This is where PR really stands out from the marketing pack. Editorial coverage can’t be bought, it is the valuable page space, airtime or social media posts that can only be achieved if the journalist or influencer buys into your product or service. It’s that credible third-party endorsement that really adds the value.


And there’s no real scientific way of putting a figure on that value. That’s why some agencies will take the advertising equivalent value and multiply it, to demonstrate the additional significance of the editorial coverage (note: while we agree that EAV is at best a tired measuring tool, if it's required, at Siren we only ever report using the raw advertising equivalent value).


For example, if you’re flicking through a magazine and you see an advert for a new food product, you might be intrigued. But if you see it listed in the food editor’s list of new products to try that month, the fact that it’s been reviewed and recommended by an impartial expert adds significant weight to your curiosity.


There can be some confusion over whether working with influencers can be achieved on an editorial level. It can. Not all work with influencers is paid-for. Just as you would send print or broadcast media on a press trip, or sample products to try and review, many influencers work in the same way.


There are strict rules now about how brands engage with influencers and, more importantly, how they transparently demonstrate the brand involvement. Aside from sponsored/paid-for content (we’ll come onto that) gifting is a perfectly legitimate way to have an influencer experience the brand and create relevant content to tell their followers what they thought.


It’s this peer-to-peer recommendation that is what makes micro-influencers so powerful. So long as you do your research to ensure the influencer content and their audience demographic matches your brand objectives, it can be an incredibly effective tactic to incorporate into your PR campaign planning.


Earned media relies on well-crafted stories and campaigns and bespoke targeting to ensure the journalists and influencers get valuable content that works specifically for their outlet and audience. And it’s this expertise that a PR agency provides better than anyone else. We’re speaking to these people on a daily basis and know what’s going to excite them.




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What is shared media?

Arguably, shared media is the most important of all four. It's that word of mouth holy grail.


Coined more recently, as marketers strive for shareability on social media channels, but the premise remains the same as always - we want consumers to become brand ambassadors. So whether we're crafting stories that friends share at the pub, or creating digital content that entices a duet / retweet / share, the end result is the same.


Ultimately, we want shared engagement with the content we create - be that a news story that people tell friends and family about, a social media post that users comment on or share across their own channels, or a fun video that gets recreated. The end goal is shareability to spread the message.


What is paid media?

Paid for media, that’s advertising, right? Yes, and so much more. As well as paying to place an advert in the media (be that on television, radio, in a newspaper or magazine, or digitally on media websites or social media platforms) there are other ways to get controlled messaging out there or to buy in the creativity of others to get your messaging across.


Advertorials are exactly as they sound; advertising meets editorial. Paid-for space, highlighted as such, that is less visual than an ad and more copy-heavy. Usually written in the media house style but with approval from the paying brand.


In a somewhat similar way, businesses are also working with influencers to create on-brand content. The right paid-for collaboration can deliver great success when you take the time to find the right collaborator and creating a content plan. Often, the most fruitful collaborations work both ways. Utilising an influencer’s platform and reaching their audience is often a given, but also commissioning them to create content to use across your owned media platforms to strengthen both the partnership and the consistency and authenticity of your campaign. This can include blog posts for your website, video content specifically created for direct marketing and social media takeovers.



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So, what should your media strategy include?

This brings us nicely onto how owned, earned, shared and paid media should be tackled as a whole. The sweet spot is found when all four are combined skilfully. The right combination, across the right outlets, using the right tactics ensures your target audience receives the right messages at the right time across whichever media they are consuming. This is where a comms agency is invaluable. Building a media strategy that ensures you meet that sweet spot and that the content and media seeding results in conversions.


Find out more about what we’ve delivered for clients across a range of owned, earned, shared and paid media such as our work on earned Bridgerton newsjacking with Rabbie’s and fully integrating a clever combination of all four for Ordamo.


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