Before getting into the specifics of a converged media content strategy, it’s important to first get a better understanding of the meaning of paid, earned and owned media. Paid media is often considered to be “traditional advertising” and includes banner ads, paid search marketing, sponsorships and content syndication. Paid media initiatives usually target prospects in an effort to create brand awareness or new customer acquisition.
The great thing about paid media is that scales really fast. If you have a message that you want to be seen by the mass market, paid media is the right channel to do that. While it can certainly be expensive, you have complete control over the creative, content and marketing spend. The disadvantages with using paid media alone are that consumers often ignore pure “brand messages” since they are already inundated daily with advertising messages; and not just from your competitors either. Every other large brand with a marketing message and a significant budget is fighting for their attention.
Difference Between Owned/Earned Media
Owned media is the content that your brand has complete control over such as the corporate website, blogs, communities, email newsletters as well social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram. Owned media initiatives typically target to your brand’s existing community and/or current customers Many believe that owned media is free, specifically managing social media accounts.. And while there is a sliver of truth to that, the time and labor investment is worth noting … it takes a lot of time to create content, build a thriving community and value to the customer conversation. You also have to consider working with customer support teams, building escalation models, and preparing for crisis communications as well. This takes a lot of time planning and collaborating with other team members; and time is money.
Earned media is the natural result of public/media relation’s efforts, ad campaigns, events and the content that you create within your owned media channels. It is not really a revolutionary concept either. For the last several decades, brands have been hiring PR firms to reach out to the media in order to get them to write stories about the brand. Today, that has expanded to influencers who have popular blogs as well. When someone not associated with your brand mentions you on Twitter, Facebook or any other social media channel, it’s earned media. Other types of earned media include consumers’ social media posts, tweets, product reviews, videos, photos, and open dialogue within online communities.
Integration of Channels
While each of these channels will play a critical role in your content strategy, the real power is when you can integrate two or more of the channels into one campaign or initiative. This is referred to as converged media. The same thinking has led to the recent surge in “native advertising.” Sites such as Buzzfeed, Crave and Forbes are capitalizing on the opportunity to mobilize their lean but hungry editorial teams to create paid content for brands that lives alongside the site’s original content.
According to the Altimeter Group, Converged Media utilizes two or more channels of paid, earned, and owned media. It is characterized by a consistent storyline, look, and feel. All channels work in concert, enabling brands to reach customers exactly where, how, and when they want, regardless of channel, medium, or device, online or offline. With the customer journey between devices, channels, and media becoming increasingly complex, and new forms of technology only making it more so, this strategy of paid/owned/earned confluence makes marketers impervious to the disruption caused by emerging technologies.
The Rationale of Converged Media
Customers are unpredictable and their daily lives are dynamic. And when you combine that with the fact that there is a content surplus in the market place and that consumers have an attention deficit, it makes it that much harder for you to reach them with your message. This is why converged media is important to your brand’s content strategy. What you do on your owned media channels alone cannot scale or allow you to grow your online following effectively. Of course, it’s good to optimize your corporate website, blog and online community for search, and provide compelling content to your existing communities. That’s a given. But without integrating your owned media initiatives with paid media, for example, you cannot reach the mass market with game-changing content.
And the same thing can be said with paid media. Traditionally, and before social media was even invented, paid media was pretty much the only channel for brands to communicate with customers outside of public relations. With the rise of social networking and increase in general content proliferation, it’s difficult to reach your customer with just paid media. Plus, they normally reject, filter out or flat out ignore traditional advertising alone.
While earned media, assuming it’s positive, is always good for your brand, you cannot ignore this content and hope that it continues day in and day out. In addition to general community engagement and building customer advocacy, a much larger opportunity exists when you can integrate earned media conversations into both paid and owned media. Imagine a situation where you are using the power and reach of paid media to highlight customers that are saying great things about your brand. It can be done with converged media; and that content is trusted.
There are many reasons why building converged media into your marketing strategy is a smart thing to do:
- Consumers need to see, hear and/or interact with your message 3-5 times before they will start to believe. The only way to do this is to use various forms of converged media.
- Paid media has reach. In minutes, you can get your content in front of millions of people. And, when you can push content that “adds value” like highlighting user stories (earned media) your traffic numbers can potentially explode and consumers may start to trust your messages.
- Whenever you post a status update on your Facebook page, you only reach between 8 – 10% of your current fan base. So, by your organic updates into promoted posts, you can reach a higher percentage of your community.
- By leveraging your earned media, and displaying it within your owned channels, you are essentially building brand advocacy and also allowing those consumers who love you to help tell your brand story.
The truth is, if you fail to integrate and align paid, earned, and owned media; you will now be at a disadvantage. You should be less concerned about what your competitors are doing and the space and more concerned with the billions of Tweets, Status Updates, text messages; as well as the 3,000 or so marketing messages that interrupt consumers’ lives every day. According to the Altimeter Group, Marketers who fail to learn to reconcile paid, owned, and earned media today will be at a distinct disadvantage and may find themselves scrambling to try and catch up.