Paid media, simply put, is media that your marketing organization buys, like advertising and sponsorships. Easy enough.
Earned media, often called free media, is publicity that is user-generated and shared, including social media engagements (Facebook likes and comments, Twitter tweets and retweets, Google+ plus1s, etc.), search engine rankings and any review, testimonial and comment that others make about you.
Lastly, owned media are channels that a brand controls, such as your company website, landing pages, mobile apps, your Facebook and Twitter page and others.
Now that we’ve got the basics down, the problem for many marketing organizations is that these three media worlds remain largely separated by walls and boundaries. Why is this a problem? Scott Brinker (@chiefmartec) answers this question in his article Mr./Ms. CMO — tear down these walls!.
He explains that when you have these media isolated from one another, customers may not be able to see the walls your organization has placed between them, but they sure can feel them. For consumers there are no boundaries between the media – in seconds they can switch from a paid channel to an owned.
As Brinker puts it, “There’s just a natural flow between brand awareness and interest and the experience that follows — whether it’s on your web site, in your store, or via some other digital or physical space that you have responsibility for.”
Once you’ve caught consumers’ attention with paid and earned media, they develop expectations for owned media as well. When owned media does not fulfill those expectations, that’s when you have a problem. Because it is easy for consumers to talk about your brand in earned media with a quick tweet or review. The important thing to remember is that, to the customer, you are “you” no matter what channel. If you’re identity and brand image changes from one form of media to the next, you are likely to appear schizophrenic to customers.
Let me paint you picture of this common disconnect between media. A consumer sees a banner ad and then clicks through to the landing page where there is no relevant information to the promise made in the ad. He or she then goes to the company website and can’t find anything but product information. So, the person clicks on your Facebook page and finds an even better deal than in the first place. There’s no synergy between the media. And let’s not even talk about your mobile site. This is a horrible, and frankly really annoying, user experience for the customer.
The channels within paid, owned and earned are multiplying, making it increasingly difficult to manage all of them. It is only when marketing leadership stops viewing these media as separate entities that the company can represent a consistent message across all media and provide a superior customer experience.
The walls delineating the media worlds must be broken down and the media united as one. For your audience, the worlds have already been combined – there are no walls. For CMOs and marketing organizations, there should be no walls as well.
I’ll leave you with Brinker’s perfect ending, “There are not three worlds. There’s only one: converged media.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.
Scott Brinker is a marketing technologist with many years’ experience at the intersection of marketing, IT, software product development, and online networks. He is currently the president & CTO of ion interactive, a company that delivers post-click marketing software and services.