Everything You Need to Know About Earned, Owned, Shared & Paid Media

Posted by Wendy Marx

[Editor’s Note: Our original post on earned, owned, shared, and paid media has been so popular, we’re revisiting the topic with new gems of information. Enjoy!]

Everything You Need to Know About Earned, Owned, Shared & Paid Media

Your PR strategy, like a fine piece of machinery, is composed of many moving parts. It can include earned, owned, paid, and shared media that together help amplify your brand’s message to your audience.

So how do all of these parts influence and benefit your overall strategy? That's what we're about to discuss.

This post is designed to help you:

  • Improve your PR strategy
  • Become familiar with the ins and outs of PR
  • Use various forms of media effectively

How would you define PR?

If you were to survey 20 PR pros on this definition, you would probably get 20 different answers. Why? Because PR involves many layers, and can be easily misunderstood if these layers are taken out of context.

The following gives a more accurate picture of PR and its role.

A Good PR Strategy Starts with a Clear Definition of PR

PR is often thought of as receiving press mentions. In other words, getting the media to write about your company. By the same token, some think PR is synonymous with marketing. Both of these definitions miss the mark, and focus as much on the interests of the company as on the needs of the buyer.

How do you put the spotlight on your buyers?

The simplified answer? By focusing your messaging and positioning in a way that means something to your prospects.

Ask yourself:

  • When you're on a sales call, what language engages your prospects?
  • What challenges do your prospects face?
  • What solutions can you offer to your prospects that will make their life easier?

These are also the questions that your content needs to answer. As many people as you may engage on a sales call, there are zillions more that are searching for answers in multiple other arenas -- including review sites, blogs, ads, and social media sites.

How do you leverage all the various avenues to reach your target audience? First of all, let's break them down into four simple categories: earned, owned, paid, and social content. Each of these offers you a unique way to reach your audience.

Once you have a clearly defined message that focuses on the needs of your prospects, it should be used across all four channels to build your brand and position yourself as an industry thought leader. You want to ensure that everyone who should see your message does.

The bottom line is: PR is the integration of earned, owned, paid, and shared media that focuses on the needs of the buyer.

How to Create an Effective PR Content Strategy

Only 37% of B2B businesses have a documented content strategy. This leaves the other 63% of businesses without a plan of action to guide their content creation. A content strategy keeps you accountable, helps you to see content gaps that you need to fill, and makes you more effective.

Do you have a documented content strategy? If not, this needs to be your first priority. Just as you can't build a house without a foundation, you can't create effective content without a strategy.

The Basics of Creating Your Own Content Strategy

You need to know whom you're creating content for, what objectives you want to reach, and how to measure your results. Document a strategy that includes the following:

  • Buyer Persona - Who do you want to reach with your content? Who is your ideal customer? What influencers does your ideal customer follow? (Hint: Be as specific as possible -- the broader your defined persona is, the less it will hit any one mark.)
  • Goals - What objectives do you want to reach? When would you like to reach each of these objectives?
  • Measurement - What analytics program will you use to measure your progress? What metrics are important to your goal-oriented strategy?
  • Use of Media - What kinds of media do you plan on using -- earned, owned, paid, or shared -- and how much of each. We'll get into more about these below.
  • Accountability - Who is responsible for creating this content? The larger your team, the more clearly defined the responsibilities should be.

If you have an outline of these points, you're ready to start delving into the kinds of media that will make your strategy a success. Each of the following media types requires different actions, and will benefit your strategy in unique ways.


You can't create effective content without a strategy Tweet: You can't create effective content without a strategy @wendymarx TO TWEET


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Working hard, but not getting enough leads? Unlock the 7 Secrets to Lead Generation. Click here to get the checklist now.

How Do I Reach People by Integrating Earned Media Into My Strategy?

Earned Media Definition: Earned media is publicity gained from backlinks from reputable sites, word of mouth, online reviews, and blogger, press, and influencer relations. It is essentially a third-party endorsement of your brand.

With a growing distrust of brands and paid advertisements, word-of-mouth and endorsements from a trusted third party can be worth its weight in gold.

Of course, we all want some of that. So how do you get it? And how does it help you to reach people?

How to Get Some of That Earned Media

This type of media isn't created overnight. Be prepared to invest time and consistent effort into building up this aspect of your content. After all, it isn't called "earned" for nothing.

First and foremost, you must get noticed in outlets that your prospects are likely to read. In the past, this meant big-name media outlets like The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. Yet, because of cutbacks on staff writers and other resources, big name media outlets are no longer a be all and end all. Also focus your attention and efforts on local newspapers, blogs, and trade publications.

Influencers are another facet of earned media that you should tap into. Do your research to find what influencers on social media and blogs have the most engagement with your target audience. 

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Here are a few tips to build toward that awareness and trust you need:

    • Offer to be a source for reporters. This builds good relations. You might sign up for HARO (Help a Reporter Out), a free service that connects reporters with potential sources.
    • Be known as a gracious person. Give praise to others on social media when it is due them. Show appreciation for the hard work and effort others have put forth in helping to define your industry.
    • Write Your Own Reviews on Podcasts and Books. This gives you a connection to the authors who produce these outlets, and gives you a reason to reach out. Down the line they may be more willing to return the favor.
    • Be a part of the online community. When others leave you feedback, make sure you respond in a timely way, and with grace and appreciation, even if the review is less than stellar.
    • Engage with bloggers by leaving comments and following them on social media. Whenever you can contribute meaningfully to the conversation, do so. Be careful not to flood their feed. You can also share their published content with your audience -- such a generous gesture won't go unnoticed!
    • Pitch newsworthy stories to journalists covering your industry. Give them everything they need for a slam-dunk story, including visuals, fact sheets, quotes, and a summary of your story that features the who, what, why, where, and when of your piece.

Modern technology has put several PR tools at your fingertips to help you deal with the challenges of earned media. For example, Muckrack is a budget-friendly service that helps you pitch ideas and stay on top of new PR opportunities. Traackr helps you to find influencers in your industry who could be a powerful asset, and provides powerful tools to reach them.

All of these tips place the focus on other people, while building your own credibility and thought leadership -- which is the pinnacle of good PR.

This kind of media benefits you in more ways than one.

First of all, Google attributes more authority to your content when it is linked to by other sites. So not only does your company and brand get seen by more people, but your content is also more likely to rank on page one of Google.

Secondly, earned media allows you to tap into the audience of the journalists or influencers who write about you. If you pique the interest of their audience, you will be paid back with clicks to your website, and even possible a purchase.

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How Do I Reach People by Integrating Owned Media Into My PR Strategy?

Owned Media Definition: Media that you own -- or, more accurately, content that you create. This includes blog posts (Not a writer? Click here to find out how to fix that), videos, whitepapers, SlideShares, infographics, ebooks, case studies, and all the content featured on your website.

How to Reach People with Owned Media

The beauty of owned media is that you have complete control over the content. Yet, it's not simply about creating content and hoping people find it. Strategy plays a vital role in the success of your owned media. For example, you have the ability to define your target audience using keyword optimization.

To that end, it is important to take a strategic approach to your choice of keywords. Ensure that the keywords you choose are the ones searched for by your prospects. Use a keyword research tool such as Google's Keyword Planner to plan your keywords for optimal effect in your content. As you climb to the top of that search engine results page, you widen your audience, and catch the eye of interested, ready-to-buy prospects.

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In order to really reach prospects with content, you need to look at your website, not as a sales mecca, but as an invaluable resource for industry information.

Would you like to help entrepreneurs get a leg up? Create indispensable instructional videos. They'll wonder what they ever did without you.

In fact, visual content, according to psychologist, Jerome Bruner, is far more engaging than written content.


The beauty of owned media is that you have complete control over the content Tweet: The beauty of owned media is that you have complete control over the content @wendymarx TO TWEET


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He asserts that people remember 10% of what they hear, 20% of what they read, and 80% of what they see and do.

Therefore, pumping up your content with visual aids is crucial.

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Another valuable asset in your owned content is your static content. This includes such pages as your About Us page, mission and vision statements, and product descriptions. When your blog and other pieces of created content pique a prospect's interest, they will inevitably dive into your static content to help them make a decision. Make sure all of this content is buttoned up and ready for your audience to view.

Not only does owned content focus on providing valuable content for your fans, but it's a big, fat PR move in the right direction.

Working hard, but not getting enough leads? Unlock the 7 Secrets to Lead Generation. Click here to get the checklist now.

How do I Reach People Using Shared Media?

Shared Media Definition: Shared media primarily encompasses using social media to distribute valuable content -- including your own -- to help your audience and guide them back to your site.

Just because you have a Facebook page doesn't mean you are reaching people with shared media. Rather, an effective integration of earned and shared media means that you are feeding buyers with a rich diet of content that's regularly served up in an appealing way.

An important, and often overlooked, part of your shared media is your page. Create a bio for social media that supports your thought leadership strategy. This is what will draw people to your brand and message.

Use social media with the goal of building your personal brand, as well as your company's brand. If you can attract people to your brand with an undeniable social presence, it will get more eyes on your content and back to your website.

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What Social Network Fits Your Needs?

With the growth of social media, how do you know which network will best benefit your business? The following are a few of the most popular networks, and what makes them useful. Remember, it's not about being on every social network -- if anything, that could detour your business goals. Instead, choose your networks strategically.

Typically speaking, Twitter is used for informational purposes. Is there breaking news about your industry? Do you wish to share your latest blog post with your fans? Twitter is the outlet for you.

However, if you wish to build community, start local dialog, or publicize a local event, Facebook is what you need.

LinkedIn is the go-to platform for B2B buyers who are seeking information, so make sure you publicize your content on that platform as well. Need to know how to create a LinkedIn company page? Check out the guide below.

Don't neglect the power of Slideshare, Instagram, and Pinterest, which are the forerunners for sharing visual content.

In the end, you need to research which social networks your prospects are on, and plan your strategy accordingly.

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Using Social Media to Amplify Your PR

There is more to shared media than posting your blog posts and writing a killer bio -- although these are definitely top of the list.

Don't forget to use social in other aspects of your PR strategy.

For example, social media should be an integral part of your modern press release strategy. Use it to reach out to and interact with journalists and influencers. Distribute your press release on social media. 

Did you get featured in a publication? Boost that happy news by sharing it and tagging the journalist on your social networks.

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The bottom line to succeeding with social media is to be social. Don't let your pages do the talking. Create content that starts conversations, engages your audience, and keeps them coming back. Let them get to know you as a brand -- share about your employees, your corporate culture, and the ideals you're passionate about.

How Do You Reach People by Integrating Paid Media Into Your PR Strategy?

Paid Media Definition: This concept is pretty straightforward. This kind of media is one that you have paid for. This includes Google Adwords, retargeting, and social media promotions.

Basically, this type of media boosts the performance of your free content. Media outlets, especially on social media, become more sophisticated all the time, and allow users to target specific audiences based on interests, gender, geography, and even where they work. With this kind of precision, media that you pay for can be very effective, if used in the right way.

Just as in owned media, you have complete control over the content you pay to distribute. The key difference is that paid content offers you the opportunity to reach a much wider audience than you could otherwise.

But the question on many people's minds is:

How Can I Use Paid Media without Looking Like a Used Car Salesman?

This one can be tricky. Misuse of paid media is one reason why PR can have a negative connotation. You don't want to seem like the sleazy used car salesman who talks about your kids for ten minutes only to see if he can upsell you.

In most cases, media that you pay for is best saved for last.

If you're using social media promotions, always humanize your message to make it more appealing. Add a little humor into your ad. And, above all, make the value of your advertisement clear. Avoid such practices as click-bait, which give paid advertisements a bad rap. Provide valuable information in your content that is worth the click-through rate you want.

In the end, always make sure you have a good reason for interrupting your audiences' normal feed.


Avoid the trap of sounding too salesy by making the value of your paid advertisements clear Tweet: Avoid the trap of sounding too salesy by making the value of your paid advertisements clear @wendymarx TO TWEET


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Closing Remarks on Effective PR Strategy

These four methods are the pillars of an effective, well-rounded PR strategy that ensures your company's message is heard loud and clear.

Developing an effective public relations strategy in an organic manner that actually gets results is no easy feat. It takes a lot of patience and effort. and it all starts with the know-how. Need some of that?

Check out how to bring your PR back to life with the 90-Day Proof of Concept ProgramIn just three months, you'll see how effective PR creates a strategy that gets you results. It's an affordable way to kick the tires and get a leg up in PR. Afterwards, you take the reins or have us continue!

Key Points to Keep In Mind...

  • Take the time to build your brand awareness and relationships with key influencers to get into earned content.
  • Build up your content with helpful information that will benefit your prospects.
  • Pay for media to boost your truly great content -- and avoid sounding like a used car salesman.
  • Leverage social media networks to publish engaging and compelling content. that draws people back to your website.

Whatever recipe of content you use in your PR strategy, make sure to incorporate these 4 forms of media.

Working hard, but not getting enough leads? Unlock the 7 Secrets to Lead Generation. Click here to get the checklist now.

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Aug 28, 2017

Wendy Marx

Wendy Marx is the founder and president of Marx Communications, a boutique inbound marketing and public relations agency. An award-winning B2B public relations pro, she has helped many small- & medium-sized firms (SMBs) become well-known industry brands and transform their businesses, going from Anonymity to Industry Icon™.

Her business articles have appeared in The New York Times, InformationWeek, Inc., Advertising Age, & Fast Company, among other outlets. 

View all posts by Wendy Marx