Earned, Owned and Paid Media: Setting The Base Of Your Content-Led Marketing

An effective start-up or young brand marketing and PR strategy should not rely on just one tactic.

To become a truly disruptive brand, you need to be everywhere that’s relevant to your target audience, be accessible and visible around the clock.

And there’s a marketing strategy for that. At DISPRUPTIVE we call it the marketing trio – earned, owned and paid media, mixed together in a powerful advertising combo.
While this concept isn’t new (Nokia pioneered with it back in 2009), it remains one of the proven blueprints for creating dominant digital (and offline) PR and marketing campaigns.
Yet to succeed, you need to understand the nuances of earned, owned and bought media and how those could be leveraged for your start-up or young brand.

What is Owned Media?


Owned media is the marketing channel you control the most.

First, there are fully-owned media properties such as your website, your mobile app, email newsletters, blog posts and so on.

There are also your partially-owned media assets – branded accounts on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter



The Goals of Owned Media

  • Building ongoing rapport with existing and potential customers.
  • Generate leads and new business enquiries.
  • Inform, educate and retain existing customers.
  • Amplify your reach and improve your reputation.

Why It Works:

  • 70% of consumers trust the information shared on branded websites.
  • 61% trust brand sponsorships
  • 56% trust the emails they have signed up for. In fact, email marketing yields the highest ROI among all marketing channels with approximately $44 (£35) for each dollar spent.
  • According to Google’s mobile to purchase report, 33% of users start their search from branded websites and 26% start on branded apps.
  • 85% of retail businesses say that search marketing is the most effective way to acquire new customers

The Definitive Benefits of Owned Media

  • Absolute control over your brand communication.
  • Longevity – this channel will consistently bring you new leads and traffic over an extended period of time.
  • Versatility – there are multiple channels and strategies you can use to generate the buzz around your company.

Common Challenges

  • Takes time to scale – SEO, content marketing or email marketing don’t bring you immediate results. You need to invest into developing these channels before they truly “take off”.
  • Resources – you will need a dedicated team to consistently run your blog, email newsletter and schedule updates on social media - though, you can always rely on pros at DISPRUPTIVE. Additionally, you may need to hire a design and development team to create your properties (app/website).
Bottom line: Investing in owned media is a long shot strategy for sure - yet it is the one that will bring you the most consistent results and allow to build an efficient communication channel with your audience.

What is Earned Media?

Earned media is a pre-digital term PR pros have used for decades.
It refers to all the public mentions of your company or products offline and online that are earned through word-of-mouth recommendation.
For start-ups today this translates into:
  • A user raving about an amazing customer experience they had.
  • Product/brand endorsements shared on social media.
  • Links and mentions organically generated through publishing great content on your blog.
  • Earning press mentions through direct outreach and strategic PR campaigns.
Basically, earned media is all the public recognition you receive about your brand.

Why It Works:

The same Nielsen study suggests that:
  • 83% of all consumers trust in peer-to-peer recommendations.
  • 66% adhere to reviews posted online by other users.
  • 66% trust editorial content and opinions shared by businesses within those.
  • Earned media delivers four times the brand lift of paid media. Also, 51% of millennial consumers are more likely to be influenced by it.
  • 72% of all consumers state that reading positive customer reviews increase their trust in the brand and 86% of customers state that their buying decisions were influenced by negative online reviews.

The Definitive Benefits of Earned Media

  • The most credible and trustworthy form of advertising.
  • Plays a key role in your sales process.
  • Amplifies your brand reputation.
  • Organically expands your reach and taps into new traffic sources.
  • Improves your brand visibility and sentiment around it.

The Challenges

  • You have little to no control over it.
  • Negative sentiments are also common. You’ll have to learn how to gracefully deal with those if you don’t want a full-blown PR crisis on your hands.
  • Hard to measure – attributing sales/leads to certain channels and measuring the overall impact of UGC (user-generated content) and WOM (word-of-mouth) can be complicated.
Bottom line: Earned media is the direct result of your brand’s behaviour. You will need to learn how to listen and respond to your audience’s positive or negative sentiments and learn how to stimulate welcomed earned media generation through various strategies.

What is Bought (Paid) Media?


Spreading your brand message organically can be tough at the beginning.
When you don't have a community of loyal fans to share the good word for you or an established list of media contacts, paid media (or purchased advertising) can deliver you a much-needed traffic boost.
Paid media is used to promote the content you already have on other channels including social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn etc.), through PPC campaigns, programmatic ad distribution platforms or direct sponsorship campaigns with influencers.

Why It Works:

  • Influencer marketing delivers 11 times more ROI than any type of digital media advertising.
  • PPC visitors (users clicking on a paid ad in search results) are 50% more likely to make a purchase than organic visitors.
  • The average CTA (click through rate) for an ad in the first position is 7.94%. It falls to just 0.90% for the fifth position.
  • Search ads lift brand awareness by 80% according to Google Study.
  • 43% of new customers buy a product they saw in a YouTube ad.

The Definitive Benefits of Paid Media


  • Immediacy – you can expect the results as soon as you set up the campaign and the budgets.
  • Easy-to-measure and attribute – you can easily identify the best performing channels and optimise your ad spending accordingly.
  • Scaling is simple – ramp up your ad spending to obtain even better results.
  • Highly targeted – you can market your company to niche audiences.

The Challenges

  • Non-sustainable in the long run. You constantly need to pay to expand your reach even further. Once you stop serving ads, the traffic/sales stream will dry up.
  • Clutter – a lot of users tend to ignore, block or skip through the ads delivered to them. As well, you are constantly competing for attention with other advertisers.
  • Low credibility – ads are annoying. Not all audiences like or trust them.
Bottom line: Paid media should be used to amplify your owned media and retain/re-target users who have already visited your website. Use it as complementary activity to expand your current reach and drive the initial buzz to your messages or offerings.