Kelsey Raymond, COO

Kelsey Raymond is the COO of Intero Digital. Kelsey has over a decade of experience helping businesses achieve their growth goals through digital marketing strategies. She leads a team of experts in content marketing, PR, web design and development, Amazon marketing, social media, video, and graphic design.

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How Earned Media and Paid Media Complement Each Other

How Earned Media and Paid Media Complement Each Other

Kelsey Raymond, COO • Intero Digital • August 17, 2023

two digital marketing professionals celebrating

The convergence of earned, owned, and paid media is no longer a point of debate but rather a fundamental aspect of effective marketing. In the past, brands viewed earned and paid media as separate entities, each with its unique set of strengths and weaknesses. However, this perspective often undermines the true potential of a truly integrated marketing strategy. Earned media vs. paid media is an outdated comparison, as these strategies are not opponents but potential allies.

Balancing Act: The Unique Roles of Earned and Paid Media in Your Strategy

Instead of viewing earned and paid media as two distinct tools, imagine them as interlocking gears, each playing a pivotal role in driving your brand forward. One of the key benefits of paid media is its controllability. Much like a faucet, you can control its flow — adjusting your investment depending on the current results of your earned media. This can take the form of increasing spend to maximize reach during periods of positive earned media attention or perhaps reducing it when your earned media is generating substantial organic growth, for example. This strategy allows for more efficient use of resources while ensuring you reach your audience when it matters most.

Earned media value is cultivated over time, often demanding considerable effort to build relationships with media and outlets, generate unique insights, and craft those insights into content that publications and leads crave. Therefore, the initial “slow-burn” nature of earned media presents an ideal opportunity for the deployment of a paid media strategy.

While your earned media is gaining traction, paid media can provide immediate visibility to a more targeted audience, thereby amplifying your overall reach. As the benefits of earned media start to take effect — such as boosted credibility, trust, and word-of-mouth referrals — you can adjust your paid media investment accordingly.

When to Adjust Your Paid Media Investment

The intensity of your paid media efforts and investment should be determined based on various factors and campaign objectives. The following are just a few circumstances where you might consider adjusting the intensity of your paid media efforts.

Increase Paid Media Efforts During…

  • Product launches or seasonal promotions: During the introduction of a new product or the execution of seasonal promotions, increasing the strength of paid media can play a pivotal role in generating immediate awareness, expanding reach, and driving sales. This amplified effort allows your marketing messages to captivate a broader audience during crucial periods.
  • Time-sensitive campaigns: For time-bound campaigns, events, or limited-time offers, increasing the intensity of paid media can create a compelling sense of urgency and prompt an immediate response from your target audience.
  • Expansion into new markets or audience segments: When venturing into new markets or targeting previously untapped audience segments, reinforcing paid media endeavors can help you swiftly establish brand visibility, generate leads, and effectively join your desired market.
  • Competitive landscapes: In the presence of active competitors who are leveraging paid media tactics, boosting your paid media strategy can ensure your brand remains competitive and maintains a robust presence within your industry. This strategic move ensures your messaging reaches your target audience amidst the noise created by competing brands.

Decrease Paid Media Efforts When You Notice…

  • Diminishing returns: If you notice your paid media initiatives are not yielding the desired outcomes, it may be time to reevaluate your strategy and reduce the overall intensity. This provides an opportunity to redirect your resources toward other marketing channels or tactics that prove to be more effective.
  • Budget constraints: When you need to optimize your marketing budget or allocate resources to other critical areas of your business, decreasing the strength of paid media can help manage costs while still maintaining a presence. This may involve adjusting ad spend or the frequency and intensity of your paid media campaigns.
  • Saturation or audience fatigue: If your target audience has been consistently exposed to your paid media messages over an extended period, they might experience fatigue or develop ad blindness. In such instances, reducing the intensity and diversifying your marketing mix can prevent audience saturation and sustain engagement.
  • Other marketing channels performing better: If you identify other marketing channels that are delivering exceptional results, you may opt to reduce your paid media efforts and reallocate resources toward those high-performing channels. This approach allows you to leverage the strengths of different channels and achieve a well-balanced marketing strategy.

Ultimately, the decision to increase or decrease the faucet power of paid media should align with your campaign objectives, budget, audience dynamics, and overall marketing strategy. Remember, regular monitoring, analysis of campaign performance, and experimentation can help guide you in making informed decisions about optimizing your paid media efforts and help you ace your marketing game.

Earned, Owned, and Paid Media: Common Misconceptions

Many brands still carry misconceptions about how to measure paid, owned, and earned media — and how to balance them. Some believe that paid media outweighs the importance of earned media or that earned media will occur naturally without active effort. Others have the impression that earned media is “free” or that investing heavily in paid media can guarantee success. The following are some common misconceptions among brands when it comes to balancing earned and paid media that may be hindering desired success:

Myth #1: Paid media is more crucial than earned media. Some brands believe that paid media holds the key to success and might overlook the potential of earned media value.

Fact: While paid media offers control and more immediate results, earned media brings authenticity, credibility, and word-of-mouth recommendations. The key lies in striking a balance between both, as they each have their strengths and can work together to achieve better results.

Myth #2: Earned media will happen naturally without effort. Brands might mistakenly assume that positive word-of-mouth or media coverage will happen without any proactive efforts.

Fact: Generating earned media often requires strategic PR, influencer partnerships, and engaging with customers to create remarkable experiences. Actively promoting positive stories and building relationships is essential for earning media attention.

Myth #3: Earned media is entirely free. Earned media might not involve direct monetary payments like paid media, but it’s not entirely free.

Fact: Earned media requires investments in building brand reputation, providing exceptional customer experiences, nurturing relationships with influencers and media outlets, working with skilled writers, and implementing effective PR and marketing strategies. These efforts demand resources, time, and expertise.

Myth #4: Paid media can completely replace earned media. Some brands may believe that investing heavily in paid media can entirely replace earned media value or vice versa

Fact: Relying solely on paid or earned media alone may limit organic growth, word-of-mouth referrals, and the credibility that comes from independent endorsements. An effective approach typically involves a blend of both earned and paid media strategies.

Myth #5: Earned media is uncontrollable. Many brands think that earned media relies on external parties and their actions.

Fact: Brands can still influence earned media through strategic PR, storytelling, customer experiences, influencer collaborations, and shareable content. Actively engaging with the audience and building relationships can increase the likelihood of positive earned media.

Myth #6: Paid media guarantees immediate success. Brands may think that investing heavily in paid media will guarantee instant success and conversions.

Fact: True success depends on various factors beyond just paid media, including product or service quality, targeting, messaging, and the overall marketing strategy. Remember, paid media is a powerful tool, but it should be monitored and optimized to get the best results.

It’s crucial for brands to recognize the complementary nature of earned and paid media and adopt a balanced approach. By understanding the strengths and limitations of each and strategically leveraging them, brands can maximize their marketing efforts and achieve better results.

Practical Examples of Earned and Paid Media Collaboration

Earned media and paid media are two separate marketing strategies, but when combined strategically, they can work together to boost overall marketing outcomes. While both earned and owned media may not deliver immediate results, earned media typically requires some time to gain momentum. That’s why having both strategies in play is crucial for a well-rounded approach.

By integrating earned and paid media, you can create a robust marketing strategy that combines immediate impact with long-term growth. Here are some examples of how paid and earned media work together to boost your marketing efforts:

1. Amplifying reach and visibility.

Paid media allows you to reach a targeted audience quickly and efficiently. By strategically placing paid advertisements across various channels, you can increase brand visibility and attract attention. Earned media, on the other hand, can amplify this reach organically. When people see positive mentions, reviews, or coverage of your brand through earned media channels like social media, word-of-mouth, or media outlets, it can reinforce the messaging conveyed through paid media and enhance your overall visibility.

2. Building credibility and trust.

Earned media, particularly positive reviews, testimonials, or media coverage, helps build credibility and trust in your brand. When potential customers see that others have had positive experiences with your products or services, it can significantly influence their decision-making process. Paid media can support this by leveraging the positive reputation and credibility earned through media coverage or user-generated content. Displaying testimonials or media logos in paid advertisements can strengthen brand trust and encourage engagement.

3. Driving conversions and engagement.

Paid media campaigns often focus on driving conversions and immediate actions, such as making a purchase, signing up for a newsletter, or downloading an app. Earned media can play a role in this process by providing social proof and validation. When potential customers see positive mentions or endorsements from influencers, experts, or their peers through earned media channels, it can increase their trust in your brand and motivate them to take the desired action promoted by paid media campaigns.

4. Enhancing targeting and segmentation.

Paid media campaigns typically allow for precise targeting and segmentation options based on various demographic, geographic, or interest-based criteria. By utilizing data and insights gained through paid media campaigns, you can identify key audiences that are more likely to engage with your brand and generate earned media. Tailoring your earned media efforts to these specific audience segments can yield more impactful results.

5. Driving content creation.

Paid media campaigns can help drive initial exposure and engagement with your brand or content. This increased visibility can lead to user-generated content, such as social media posts, reviews, or testimonials. Earned media can then leverage this user-generated content to further promote your brand and engage with your target audience. Paid media can also fuel content creation by amplifying valuable and informative content through sponsored placements or influencer collaborations.

Ultimately, when it comes to earned media vs. paid media, it’s not about one being superior to the other. Instead, it’s about recognizing the strengths of each and integrating them for the most effective results.

Don’t avoid paid media. Use it to your benefit.

Kelsey Raymond, COO

Kelsey Raymond is the COO of Intero Digital. Kelsey has over a decade of experience helping businesses achieve their growth goals through digital marketing strategies. She leads a team of experts in content marketing, PR, web design and development, Amazon marketing, social media, video, and graphic design.

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