Gini Dietrich

The Four Different Types of Media

By: Gini Dietrich | June 24, 2013 | 
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SS_PESO ModelA few weeks ago, Paula Kiger asked me if I would write a blog post about the different types of media.

Paula, here you go!

In the marketing world, we have what we refer to as four forms of media: Paid, earned, owned, and shared.

If you’re in business – and have been for more than 10 years – it’s pretty certain you only ever had to worry about paid and earned media.

And then social media came along and created the opportunity for owned and shared, which business leaders and communicators, alike, have scrambled to learn, understand, and incorporate.

But let’s take a step back and look at what the four mean.

Paid Media

Paid media is what you know of as advertising. You pay for space in a newspaper or magazine, on a radio or television program, on billboards, on websites, in Google, and even in subway stations.

If you’re paying to put your message somewhere, it falls in this category.

Typically you hire (or have internally) a creative agency that develops the advertising campaign, creates a witty slogan or jingle, and helps you place it in the right places.

It’s expensive, it’s hard to measure, and it’s one of the few ways to get your message out to the masses in a very fast and effective way.

If your industry is highly competitive, paid media is one of the best ways to communicate.

Earned Media

Earned media is what you know of as public relations…or as we prefer to call in the business: Media relations or publicity.

It used to be you’d hire a PR firm because of their deep relationships with journalists in your industry or nationally. Those relationships would help  you tell your story so it would appear in your top trade publications, in the Wall Street Journal, or on The Today Show.

Being from Chicago, people always wanted to hire us to get them on Oprah. It was almost a blessing to the PR industry here when her show went off the air.

Stories told from a third-party perspective are always looked at as credible and trust-worthy.

But media relations is expensive, time intense, and there are no guarantees.

Because of that, we often hear from business owners, “We tried a PR firm, but it didn’t work.”

If all they do is media relations, you’ll typically end up sorely disappointed.

Owned Media

But that leads us to owned media. With the advent of changes at Google, your website now has to be a living, breathing document. Gone are the days of publishing your site and not updating it again until years later.

The content you create is becoming even more important than the two forms of media listed above.

We’re not talking about content on your website that talks about how great you are. We’re talking about content that is valuable, interesting, and informational for your audiences.

Things such as how-to webinars, tips and tools podcasts, informational white papers, or blogs that create value by giving away your best ideas.

Spin Sucks has the vision of changing the perception of the PR industry (we’re not all spin doctors) and provides business owners and the industry, alike, the tools they need to do their own marketing and communications.

But a funny thing happened along the way. Most people won’t do it themselves and, because we give away the best, we’re perceived as the industry leader. This darn blog drives 40 percent of our new revenue every year.

All because the owned media we create is valuable to our audiences.

Shared Media

Unfortunately, though, you can’t just create the content and hope people will stop by. This is not the Field of Dreams: If you build it, they most likely will not come.

With the Google Panda update, you are now ranked on whether or not people share your content on the social networks.

The search engine wants to see you consistently create new content and that people want to share it with their networks. Double gold stars if they share it on Google+ and if you use video and house it on YouTube.

The first step is to make sure the social media share buttons are on your site so it’s easy for visitors to share your owned media, but you also have to spend some time building networks of your own.

Don’t go out and try to do that on all of the social networks. Studies have shown Facebook is the most effective for consumer-facing businesses and LinkedIn is for those working business-to-business.

Choose the one (or two) networks that best fits your audience (hang out on the web where they already participate) and start there.

An Industry Shift

If you’re in the market for external marketing and communications expertise, look for agencies that combine the four media.

For instance, FleishmanHillard recently announced they’re pulling in all four types of media under one roof. A boutique marketing communications firm in Chicago named Arment Dietrich (cough, cough) did this in 2010.

The point is, there are some firms that are still stuck in 2005, offering only media relations and maybe one or two other tactics, such as events or they dabble in social media. And then there are others that see the future, grasp a hold of it, and are there for their clients as technology changes the way we all do our jobs every day.

Find a firm that will help you move into the future today…not five years from now.

A version of this first appeared in my weekly AllBusiness column

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.

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