Leveraging the Paid, Owned, and Earned Media Framework


Whether they’re working on a paid social media campaign, crafting copy for a website, or landing coverage in a magazine or blog, many marketing managers share one goal: to raise brand awareness. However, with multiple team members creating countless content assets across several digital channels, processes can get hectic — and inefficient — quickly.

An effective marketing operation requires that everyone on the team takes a holistic view of how media tactics work together. Media tactics fall into three main buckets:

  1. Paid: Media that a marketer pays for, such as display advertising, pay per click (PPC), paid influencers, and retargeting.
  2. Owned: Media from owned properties such as websites, mobile apps, email, and social media platforms.
  3. Earned: Shares or mentions outside of owned channels, such as blog links, news articles, and customer testimonials (negative reviews included).

Most organizations leverage media in all three categories, and each channel often correlates with the responsibilities of different roles and teams. Some channels, like social media, influencer marketing, and content, may intersect with all three buckets.

When team members are aligned on the interplay between paid, earned, and owned media, they can work to tell a cohesive, consistent story across multiple channels. At the same time, they can optimize their contributions independently by thinking about how their work impacts the rest of the organization.

Juggling so many channels and developing a strategy that includes owned, paid, and earned media can be daunting. It requires organization — and that’s where the Paid, Owned, and Earned Media Framework, one of many tools you can use to organize your marketing efforts, comes in.

This framework provides a roadmap for considering media options and choosing which tactics to pursue. Leverage it to:

  1. Understand and assess the value of different channels for your brand.
  2. Organize how you utilize these channels.
  3. Evaluate how different channels amplify one another.
  4. Get a better understanding of your colleagues’ roles.
  5. Align teams across media tactics to create a converged campaign.

Let’s take a deeper dive into the three types of media.

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Paid Media

Paid media today include both traditional and new types:

  • Banner, video, social, and native advertising
  • Paid search
  • Paid influencers
  • Affiliates
  • TV
  • Print
  • Out-of-home

Thanks to the data at the heart of new media, the conversation goes beyond reach to include engagement and relevance. Paid media are often the most expensive digital marketing tactics, but they offer more immediate and predictable reach to a target audience.

Paid campaigns are usually classified in one of two ways:

  1. A brand campaign prioritizes reach. The goal is to share your message with a target audience, raising brand awareness and intent to purchase.
  2. A direct response campaign is meant to drive an action. These typically offer a promotion and a clear call to action (CTA) to try to incentivize the user to complete a conversion.

Thanks to the evolution of creative formats, both goals can be achieved in a single ad that catches a user’s attention, educates them about a product, and drives them through a conversion. For example, Facebook’s carousel format, when used with its Lead Generation objective, allows users to enter their email address directly into an ad unit. This lets a marketer combine both brand awareness and direct response into a single ad.

Owned Media

Owned media channels are those that are fully under a brand’s control. They can be designed, updated, and shared at the company’s discretion.

Websites are arguably the most important owned assets, as a major goal of nearly all other digital marketing channels is to drive traffic to company websites where visitors can then convert. Other key properties include mobile apps, eCommerce sites, content, email lists, direct mail, SMS/messaging lists, and branded social channels.

A company’s physical locations and hosted events are also owned channels, as businesses have control over what happens there.

Owned media channels give you the opportunity to educate and entertain your customers, as well as create a seamless customer experience. For many individuals like email marketing managers, brand managers, and SEO specialists, optimizing owned media channels is a full-time job.

Earned Media

Earned media come from sources outside of your organization, often in the form of word-of-mouth recommendations. Studies show that people find recommendations from people they know to be more trustworthy than content coming directly from brands, and no amount of paid advertising can make up for a lack of valuable earned media.

Common sources of earned media include social media and content marketing shares, unpaid influencers, public relations, reviews, and testimonials. This type of marketing can be very effective but tends to require a longer-term effort than paid and owned media.

It’s also important to note that earned media are the least in our control. We can put effort into driving press coverage or influencer shoutouts, but we can rarely dictate what people say about our brand.

How to Plan a Converged Media Campaign

The most effective marketing strategies combine paid, owned, and earned media to create an impact that’s greater than the sum of its parts. Moreover, the combination that’s best for your brand will be one that’s uniquely tailored to your size, budget, resources, and existing reach.

When you’re planning a campaign, use the worksheets found in our free Campaign Essentials guide to ensure that all stakeholders and teams are aligned on how they’re contributing to the larger end goal(s). As you’ll see, many of these questions incorporate themes and strategies covered in earlier frameworks, and we encourage you to keep your SMART objectives and KPIs in mind.

More Tools to Master Your Marketing Operations

The Paid, Owned, and Earned Media framework is just one of many tools you can use to organize goals, prioritize approaches, create effective campaigns, determine which data to focus on, and more. In our free, exclusive paper, Campaign Essentials, dive into three more valuable frameworks commonly used throughout General Assembly’s digital marketing programs. Each framework serves a different purpose in focusing, planning, executing, and optimizing your marketing campaigns.

Dive into the tactics that drive successful marketing campaigns through our part-time 10-week or 1-week accelerated Digital Marketing course, on our global campuses or online. Learn practical skills in short-form workshops and bootcamps, connect with others in the field at our exclusive campus events, or get an overview of the field in a free livestream. For teams, strengthen your marketing operations by assess your marketers’ skills, identifying growth opportunities, and closing your skills gaps.

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