Gini Dietrich

Owned vs. Earned Media: Measuring the ROI

By: Gini Dietrich | September 28, 2011 | 
83

Measuring the return-on-investment for paid, earned, and owned media is not an easy task.

When I started my career, we measured media impressions and advertising equivalency. Somewhere along the way someone finally told the industry that was ridiculous and meant nothing.

So where did that leave us?

We know, intuitively, that paid, earned, and owned media increase brand awareness, unaided recall, and loyalty. But more and more business leaders are asking us to define that directly to hard, cold cash.

Forrester has a really simple chart that shows you the media type, definition, examples, the role, benefits, and challenges.

I’m not a paid media expert so I’ll leave that segment to those who are. But we can discuss earned and owned media, the ROI, and how to measure.

Earned Media

Earned media, according to Wikipedia is:

Favorable publicity gained through promotional efforts other than advertising. Earned media often refers specifically to publicity gained through editorial influence, whereas social media refers to publicity gained through grassroots action, particularly on the Internet. The media may include anymass media outlets, such as newspapertelevisionradio, and the Internet, and may include a variety of formats, such as news articles or shows, letters to the editoreditorials, and polls on television and the Internet.

Earned media typically means, to those in the communication field, media relations.

It used to be that we’d spend our entire careers developing relationships with reporters, journalists, editors, and producers in order to have stories created that helped the companies with which we worked.

But with the technology age, traditional media outlets closed and the people we built spent our entire careers building relationships with were out of jobs.

Now we’re faced with continuing traditional media relations, but also building relationships with bloggers and social media influencers.

The cool thing? It’s much easier, now, to measure our earned media efforts.

For instance, consider creating an online media room. Use that URL in all your dealings with media, bloggers, and influencers. You’ll be able to track who is visiting the page, where they’re coming from, how long they’re staying, what they’re viewing, and whether or not they’re downloading information.

Based on that information, you can refine and improve your information and messages.

Not only does tracking this way provide you numbers to use when dealing with your executive team, but it also makes you really smart about the types of information to keep in the room.

Owned Media

Owned media, according to Forrester, is

A channel you control. There is fully-owned media (like your website) and partially-owned media (like Facebook fan page or Twitter account). Owned media creates brand portability. Now you can extend your brand’s presence beyond your web site so that it exists in many places across the web – specifically through social media sites and unique communities. In a recession in which marketing budgets are being cut by 20%, the ability to communicate directly with consumers who want to engage with your brand through long-term relationships can be invaluable.

I’m a big believer in having your owned media reside on something you own. And then lending your content and community to outlying networks, such as Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.

Content doesn’t have to be blogging, either. It can include white papers, eBooks, webinars, podcasts, video campaigns, and email marketing.

But the best (and most effective) way to measure your owned media is to provide calls-to-action. What do you want people to do after they’ve read, listened to, or watched your content?

For instance, we do a Facebook question of the week. People can ask me a question on our Facebook wall. I then answer it via video. That video is uploaded to YouTube, is featured here, and is also added to the Arment Dietrich home page.

The call-to-action on every video is for people to like the Arment Dietrich Facebook page and leave a question on the wall.

And then we measure not only how many questions we get, but how many video views, how many visitors to that particular blog post, how many comments, how many social shares, and more.

If you need the call-to-action to be monetary, think about what you want someone to do.

For instance, create a free webinar that teaches your prospects about a problem your company solves. In return for the free webinar, you have attendees’ permission to let your sales team follow-up with them.

Also be thinking about:

  • A call-to-action on every piece of owned media you create.
  • Landing pages where people download your content. Landing pages allow you to track the effectiveness of one particular piece of content.
  • Registration (i.e. email address and phone number) in exchange for some piece of content.
  • Building your database.
  • Generating leads.
  • Converting leads.
  • Integrating your efforts with the sales team.

If you’re able to create a holistic approach with all of your media efforts, you’ll soon become the hub in the wheel of information where you’re looked at as an investment, not an expense.

This first ran as part of the Cision Future of Earned Media series

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

  • kreativekonnect

    @ginidietrich @spinsucks KK Digital Syndication = Earned Media w/guaranteed results. #oneofakind

  • This is exactly what I have been looking for! Thanks for my lesson of the day.

  • This is exactly what I have been looking for! Thanks for my lesson of the day.

  • This is exactly what I have been looking for! Thanks for my lesson of the day.

  • ginidietrich

    @Anthony_Rodriguez You’re welcome! And don’t tell ken mueller you were the first one here!

  • ginidietrich

    @Anthony_Rodriguez You’re welcome! And don’t tell ken mueller you were the first one here!

  • ginidietrich

    @Anthony_Rodriguez You’re welcome! And don’t tell ken mueller you were the first one here!

  • I hate to sound like one of those comment section spambots, but I agree with the bots on this one:

    “Thank you! I find this information very useful and informative!”

    No really. Great stuff. Nothing more to add…

  • I hate to sound like one of those comment section spambots, but I agree with the bots on this one:

    “Thank you! I find this information very useful and informative!”

    No really. Great stuff. Nothing more to add…

  • ginidietrich

    @fitzternet LOL! That, literally, made me laugh out loud. HA!

  • LynetteYoung

    I’m chattin’ this up on Google+ but wanted to stop in and say I love this. You’ve put in words some of the feelings I’ve had on the subject.

  • LynetteYoung

    I’m chattin’ this up on Google+ but wanted to stop in and say I love this. You’ve put in words some of the feelings I’ve had on the subject.

  • ginidietrich

    @LynetteYoung I thought your comment about wanting a viral video or a million sign-ups in a week was hilarious. Whenever someone asks us for a viral video we respond with something such as, “If you and your business partner kick each other in the nuts, you’ll have a viral video.”

    It’s like the old days of wanting the front page of the NY Times. Sure, you can have it. If you murder a bunch of people.

  • LynetteYoung

    @ginidietrich I just lost my coffee out my nose. I am SO using that line about the kicking next time someone says that to me. Viral videos = crotch shots, kittens & babies. That is all.

  • ginidietrich

    @LynetteYoung LOL!! Seeing you losing coffee out your nose would have made a great viral video!

  • Interesting thing with the new Facebook is that people can now comment on your business page without actually liking it. Odds are, anyone who goes to ask a question of the week WILL like your page, but now the job is even harder!

  • @ginidietrich your lips are moving but all I hear is blah blah blah

  • ginidietrich

    @KenMueller I know. I was reading an article about how marketers are going to have to be even smarter and more creative. Time to think about some changes!

  • @ginidietrich yeah…i know someone who wrote an article like that yesterday….

    and smarter and more creative? guess you’ll have to hire someone.

  • ginidietrich

    @KenMueller You don’t think I already have someone on staff who is smarter and more creative than me?

  • @ginidietrich don’t make me answer that…

  • @ginidietrich i mean…yes…i’m sure there is at least one…if not all…

  • It is really funny I have heard of the terms earned, paid, owned I don’t have a marketing degree and to me I just connect everything that brings all the inputs and outputs to determine what is working. And often some activities assist in the success of others. I like recordable actions. I don’t think brands should focus on Facebook for all their engagement or content either. They are crazy to since most of their customers can’t be reached there in any controlled or timely manner.

    Your tips are a great frame work for an integrated web/media presence. A must read primer for business owners. Make sure this one goes into Crains please. And Chicago Biz Journal.

  • ginidietrich

    @HowieSPM I don’t think brands should focus on Facebook (or any other platform they don’t own) for all their engagement and content, either. I think it’s ridiculous you would depend on something else to host your content and your community. You should own it and lend it to the social platforms.

  • @ginidietrich@HowieSPM I think that might be my favorite line in all of this. Host it on your own properties, then “lend” it to the social platforms. Gini…I take back all I’ve said. You’re a genius.

  • @ginidietrich@HowieSPM Not sure why, but my favorite way to explain this is to use a “fly paper analogy.” Your customers are flying around Facebook – you only try to get them “stuck” on your FB page as the first step in an extraction process. You are either extracting them from FB to your website or store.

    Of course, if a FB page is the fly paper, your business would be the garbage pail – so the analogy kind of falls apart as you go deeper into it. But people dig the “fly paper/sticky” concept. Maybe because social media can seem as chaotic as a fly buzzing around the room.

    I liked my first comment better.

  • @KenMueller@ginidietrich if the goal is to ditch the brand pages and make you advertise this puts Facebook in the display ad biz not social media (they kind of are now). They have the good : A ton of inventory + potential ad targeting insight and a few hundred million people around the world with accounts and you can run a pay per click campaign. Then the bad: they have half the click rate of traditional digital even with all the personal data. So I think its all ‘impressions of display’ for them.

    Which reinforces why not develop a comm platform everyone would actually pay for that works. That is a thin ass business model there.

  • @HowieSPM@ginidietrich except that I”m telling my clients NOT to buy ads. I don’t click on them. the click rates suck, as you say. But, many pages will probably make the mistake of abandoning real engagement on the page for the ad and app model. That clears out some of the newsfeed for businesses that are “smart and creative” and learn how to engage. I’m already seeing the Darwinism in my newsfeed, learning, and taking note, of what filters through. And I have a lot of FB friends, ergo a very busy feed. So I can see what is working and what isn’t…remembering that the average person on FB has fewer than 150 friends.

    And there is no platform that everyone will pay for. I’m cheap. I’m not gonna pay.

  • @KenMueller@ginidietrich if you sold your porch off Ken then you could afford the pay for comm. Have you heard of the Arment – Dietrich Consumer Financials Division they can help.

  • @HowieSPM@ginidietrich well, I can’t sell my porch. I rent it already. It’s not mine to sell. And I’m already in it up to my ears with those Arment-Dietrich folks.

  • ginidietrich

    @KenMueller Finally.

  • ginidietrich

    @KenMueller Finally.

  • ginidietrich

    @fitzternet You are on fire today!

  • Ugh. Another FB change? Great…

    Aside from the cultural implications (making everyone’s life into the most boring reality show ever and making your friends/family into wannabe reality stars), Facebook really pisses me off with all these changes. I dabbled in developing apps for Facebook for about two weeks. Then I learned more about Zuck and that was it for me. I don’t think he’s evil, but that company consistently changes everything with zero regard for the developers that have made their platform more user-friendly.

  • SpinSucks

    @leeodden Thank you, Lee! – Lisa

  • @ginidietrich Haha awesome!

  • @ginidietrich Haha awesome!

  • @ginidietrich Haha awesome!

  • kamichat

    @coyenator Glad you found it helpful, that is an old one, but timeless, too.

  • coyenator

    @kamichat today’s post from @ginidietrich http://t.co/NYsOip1F helpful 4 sm orgs & coalitions, clear, actionable @jasonverhoosky

  • ginidietrich

    @jeffmello Jeff Mello. Hi!

  • ginidietrich

    @coyenator Thank you!

  • jeffmello

    @ginidietrich Hi Gini! You are the writing Queen:). Hope you are doing well. Maybe I will see you in Mid-Oct.?

  • ginidietrich

    @jeffmello You will?! Are you coming here?

  • Moaj

    Good start. I think the interactions between owned-earned-paid are more complex now. brands have highly specific needs due to not only to specific business objectives and challenges, but the nature of their audience, the industry they are in, and where there brands sits in the competitive space.

    @Moaj

  • ginidietrich

    @Moaj Totally agree. And if they’re not all integrated strategically (vs. the same message on every platform) the brand will fail.

  • tobes21

    Only yesterday I saw a major Australian tourism branch launch not one, but a ‘series of viral videos’ (their words). In the same release it went on to talk about the great work of the PR firm involved… And there was zero potential for the videos to go viral. They were about wine tasting.

  • tobes21

    Only yesterday I saw a major Australian tourism branch launch not one, but a ‘series of viral videos’ (their words). In the same release it went on to talk about the great work of the PR firm involved… And there was zero potential for the videos to go viral. They were about wine tasting.

  • mctex

    Hi Gini – I’m a many-time reader, first time commenter. Love your blog – pretty forward-thinking in the PR space. (Especially in comparison to some things I’ve read on HBR lately.) This is a great, clean discussion of the paid-earned-owned model, the distinctions of which I’ve struggled with since entering a big company marketing environment that’s organized this way. The trouble I have with the model is to actually get to ROI – internet marketing ROI – one needs to have a holistic understanding of their cost structure in each silo. For example, if my campaign objective (not to be confused with program objective) is to gain social media fans, and I live in the earned space and am considering influencer outreach, I need to know what it costs to straight up “buy” those same fans via ads in the paid space, or how successful I’ll be in placing a call to action on my owned properties, prior to making a cost-effective decision. Similarly, if I’m calculating ROI on my blogger outreach program, I need to understand the “owned” concept of SEO, as those links have value in my organic search performance. (The list of examples goes on and on.) So while I understand the need to organize ourselves in this way initially due to legacy skill sets, I would challenge that the goal should be to move across these silos, particularly if the goal is to capture a true brand ROI.

  • mctex

    Hi Gini – I’m a many-time reader, first time commenter. Love your blog – pretty forward-thinking in the PR space. (Especially in comparison to some things I’ve read on HBR lately.) This is a great, clean discussion of the paid-earned-owned model, the distinctions of which I’ve struggled with since entering a big company marketing environment that’s organized this way. The trouble I have with the model is to actually get to ROI – internet marketing ROI – one needs to have a holistic understanding of their cost structure in each silo. For example, if my campaign objective (not to be confused with program objective) is to gain social media fans, and I live in the earned space and am considering influencer outreach, I need to know what it costs to straight up “buy” those same fans via ads in the paid space, or how successful I’ll be in placing a call to action on my owned properties, prior to making a cost-effective decision. Similarly, if I’m calculating ROI on my blogger outreach program, I need to understand the “owned” concept of SEO, as those links have value in my organic search performance. (The list of examples goes on and on.) So while I understand the need to organize ourselves in this way initially due to legacy skill sets, I would challenge that the goal should be to move across these silos, particularly if the goal is to capture a true brand ROI.

  • ginidietrich

    @mctex Hi first-time commenter! I’m so glad you left a comment because hackmanj and I were JUST talking about how to make people comfortable enough to comment for the first time. Thank you!

    I have SO MUCH to say about your comment. So much so, in fact, there is a book coming out with my name on the cover. Unfortunately I’m under NDA so all I’ll say is A-FREAKING-MEN! Amen, amen, amen!

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  • @ginidietrich@HowieSPM Bloody brilliant, this. Brands need firm reminding that the social platforms are vehicles for the communication of their content.

  • @ginidietrich I daresay the best & most successful CEOs *alway* endeavor to hire people smarter and more creative than they are.

  • ginidietrich

    @jasonkonopinski Unless they can’t find people smarter than they are…badaboom!

  • ginidietrich

    @fitzternet Oh they don’t care about anything but Global Domination.

  • ginidietrich

    @tobes21 Oy. That hurts my head. Seriously.

  • kdpaine

    I have two minor additions to this discussion. The first is that the Wikipedia definiton of earned is seriously flawed. If you only count desirable coverage as “earned” what do you call all the rest of the comments, coverage etc out there that you may not consider desirable. I would suggest that you also “earn” media coverage for the bad stuff you do as well — and while that coverage may not be desirable, nor generated by a promotional campaign. you still earned it.

    Secondly, you neglect to include the category of “shared” media which is media or content that you created, but that other people then take and share with their friends and networks. I would argue that shared media may be the most influential of all.

  • kdpaine

    I have two minor additions to this discussion. The first is that the Wikipedia definiton of earned is seriously flawed. If you only count desirable coverage as “earned” what do you call all the rest of the comments, coverage etc out there that you may not consider desirable. I would suggest that you also “earn” media coverage for the bad stuff you do as well — and while that coverage may not be desirable, nor generated by a promotional campaign. you still earned it.

    Secondly, you neglect to include the category of “shared” media which is media or content that you created, but that other people then take and share with their friends and networks. I would argue that shared media may be the most influential of all.

  • kdpaine

    I have two minor additions to this discussion. The first is that the Wikipedia definiton of earned is seriously flawed. If you only count desirable coverage as “earned” what do you call all the rest of the comments, coverage etc out there that you may not consider desirable. I would suggest that you also “earn” media coverage for the bad stuff you do as well — and while that coverage may not be desirable, nor generated by a promotional campaign. you still earned it.

    Secondly, you neglect to include the category of “shared” media which is media or content that you created, but that other people then take and share with their friends and networks. I would argue that shared media may be the most influential of all.

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  • rjmetras

    Agree completely @spinsucks . Look forward to seeing you at TTToronto tomorrow with @joethornley and  just discussed this  earned concept on my blog today with reference to this post

  • I was just searching for a graphic on owned and earned media, and look where I landed!! You’ve hit the nail on the head once again. I miss this place, I need to come by more often! 🙂

    • @jennalanger Too funny! You SHOULD come by more often!

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