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Today’s B2B marketers have a broader range of media options than ever. To help make sense of all these options, it’s useful to make a distinction between paid, earned and owned media. If you’re unfamiliar with the terminology, a few words of explanation are in order.
Paid media needs little introduction: It’s the stuff we all think of as traditional opportunities to advertise. And it’s typically where propaganda-style messages rear their ugly heads. In traditional media, this includes the usual suspects such as magazine and newspaper advertisements and TV and radio spots; In new media, think banner advertising, Google Adwords, Facebook ads, pre-roll video ads and all the other executions for which you pay a fee.
Paid media does have an important role to play— it’s a key tool for building initial attention for and attracting subscribers to your Voice of Industry activities, whether you are launching a thought leadership site or a newsletter discussing industry topics. In the medium to longer term, however, you should aim to heavily reduce paid media from your media mix (at least for Voice of Industry initiatives).
Of greater importance is earned media. We use this term to describe online and offline coverage you gain in spaces you don’t fully control—for example, when happy customers blog or tweet about your products or services, when journalists report about you or when influential commentators talk about your products or services to their fans and followers. You have to ‘earn’ your way to this media coverage, most often through targeted PR efforts. To our way of thinking, earned media also encompasses the communities, channels and so on you may have set up using Facebook, LinkedIn or YouTube, for example. The unifying principle with earned media is that you have earned your place in the media landscape based on something you’ve done or content you have created.
Owned media is different. The term refers to material and interactions you create yourself, in a company-controlled context. So corporate blogs, offline seminars, microsites, interactive publications and the like are examples of owned media—you are able to fully determine the content and interactions because you own the medium. This level of control makes owned media the alpha and omega for your Voice of Industry efforts.
Its vital for B2B companies to have an effective website—and to be easily found for prospect-focused keywords and phrases on search engines. Beyond those touchpoints, however, it’s also important for the company to be well represented in both paid and earned media. Your thought leadership initiatives should stand your brand in good stead in search and in earned media—but you will have to indulge in some more traditional promotion of your specific products along the way, to ensure that they are represented appropriately when prospects come calling.
Build your future activities upon industry-level media your company can build and own itself, mimicking the tone and style of independent publications, but providing a much more controllable and data-rich platform for engaging with stakeholders of all kinds.
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