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The Difference Between Owned, Earned, and Paid Media in Online Reputation Management

By Don Sorensen, Online Reputation Management Expert; CEO, Big Blue Robot

Online marketers today know the value of owned, paid, and earned media in brand awareness, customer acquisition, and customer retention. But a brand’s online reputation management also depends on these three types of media.

So what are owned, earned and paid media — and how can you use them to manage your reputation online?

Owned Media in Online Reputation Management

Owned media are channels you control. Your website and blog are the two biggest players in this type of media. However, channels you partially control, such as your social media accounts, can also be consideredowned media. Other types of owned media include:

  • Microsites
  • “Business card” homepages such as About.Me
  • Mobile apps and notifications
  • Webinars
  • Press releases and news

Channels you own and control are an important part of your managing your reputation online. They often do very well in organic search results, and they promote what you want your audience to think and know about you.

Paid Media in Reputation Management Online

Paid media are channels you purchase, such as campaigns on Google AdWords or Bing ads. Other types of paid media include:

  • Facebook ads
  • Promoted tweets
  • Sponsorships
  • Banner and other display ads
  • TV and radio spots
  • Print advertising

Paid media is most often used in marketing and advertising campaigns, but it can also support an online reputation management strategy in two ways.

First, purchased media drives visitors to your owned media, where you have more control over perception and conversation. Second, paid channelsact as catalyststo drive more engagement with your brand, and more engagement leads to higher brand awareness and more earned media.

Paid media works best in conjunction with owned and earned media, because, asMashablenotes, many individual channels can be considered all three.

Earned Media in Reputation Management

Earned media is any channel you get by merit. You don’t own it, and you don’t pay for it. Someone else online, such as your customers or partner companies or industry thought leaders, mentions your company, shares your content, or publishes content you created just for their audience.

One major goal of owned and paid media is the opportunity to get earned media, especially by customers, who then become evangelists for your company and products. A fewexamples of earned mediainclude:

  • Word of mouth
  • Reviews and recommendations
  • Anything that goes “viral” such as YouTube videos
  • Guest blog posts
  • Research published on other websites
  • Your content being shared (i.e. LinkedIn groups, Facebook, Twitter)
  • Your content being rated (i.e. Digg, StumbleUpon)
  • Anyone talking about your company (i.e. forums, Q&A sites)

The downsides of earned media are that it can be negative, difficult to measure, and hard to scale. But even negative earned media has a benefit by showing you what processes or products you can improve.

Earned media is the most credible of the three media types, so you definitely want it to appear in search results and other places online to influence your reputation. To ensure searchers see positive earned media, follow these basic steps:

  • Offer great products and customer experience
  • Create unique, useful content for both owned (i.e. blog) and earned (i.e. guest blog) media
  • Spark fresh earned media with paid media and word of mouth
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