Earned vs. Unearned Media

Earned vs. Unearned Media

January 23, 2019
Shari Steinbach
Business SkillsCommunications

By Shari Steinbach, MS RDN, RDBA Contributing Editor

In the past, retailers who wanted to reach their target market with information on products and services typically created a printed ad or commercial, but in today’s digital world, marketing has become more of an omni channel approach. Yes, there is still paid media, but earned and owned media are also part of the picture. Here are some basic definitions to help you understand the differences and benefits of using these different marketing tactics:

Earned Media is when customers, the press and the public share your content and speak about your brand. Think of it as the social media equivalent of “word-of-mouth” publicity.  These mentions are “earned,” meaning they are voluntarily given by others. Earned media is authentic content provided by people who are not employed by your company and when a trusted influencer writes about your store or products, a single article can reach thousands of potential customers. 

Owned Media is when you leverage a channel you create and control.  Owned media sites are an extension of your brand and create additional avenues for people to interact with your company. That can be websites, blogs, social media channels (Facebook, YouTube, Twitter). Remember you never really “own” your social media properties, which is why attention should be given to building an excellent corporate website, pertinent apps, and retail channels (online and offline). 

Unearned Media is when a company pays for promoting itself with the aim of increasing customers and sales. You use this paid media, for example, when you pay to leverage a third-party channel, such as sponsorships and ads on third-party sites. Paid media may involve driving traffic to your owned media sites. Traditional media methods such as TV and print ads are still important but digital and mobile make using paid social media ads essential to most businesses. 

To be totally effective, earned, owned and paid media need to converge and be integrated within a retailer’s marketing strategies. In summary - Create engaging, customer focused, solution-oriented content with owned media, and position that content strategically through targeted paid media to earn your customer’s trust and support. You will then develop a strong, vocal network of brand advocates.