Owned, Paid or Earned Media: Which is more important for your Lead Generation efforts?

By Barak Hajaj
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paid or earned media


Over the last decade, almost every marketer pondered with the idea of which type of media: owned, paid or earned media -  is the most essential marketing tool. The question of whether “earned media” is more valuable than traditional “paid media” isn’t always easy to answer.

With the decline in consumer attitudes toward sponsored ads in the past few years, the question as to which type of media is the most effective for lead Generation is more important than ever. While the idea of earned media is appealing from a financial standpoint (social media is free!), there are some important points to consider when building your marketing campaigns around all three of these types of media.

First of all: what are owned, paid and earned media?

Owned  - Owned media is the content you’re in full control of, e.g your company website, blog posts, case studies, content offers (whitepapers, infographics etc), and your social media accounts.

Owned media can be used to generate leads as well as to nurture them, provide value and move down the sales funnel.

The upside of owning media is a no brainer - you own assets and are in full control of them. The main downside (if at all) is that generating leads on your owned media is a challenging task that requires investment of money, time and patience.

Paid – Paid media refers to any media form that you pay in order to advertise, e.g social media ads, search engines ads. display ads, video ads, paid recommendations on content discovery platforms and so on. Those advertising options are usually used to boost your exposure, promote specific products or content and generate quick revenue (Pros will also use paid media for targeting keywords on earlier stages of the buyer’s journey).

The main upside of paid media is the ability to target specific audiences and scale. The downside is that the minute you turn off the tap, the curtain shuts on your paid assets.

Earned – When someone distributes your content on your behalf, it’s considered “earned” media.

This happens when customers or clients share, like, tweet, comment, write about your product/service and share their experiences with your organization (whether good or bad). The clear downside of earned media is that your company is at the mercy of your customers. The upside? Chances are that if your company provides good customer support and sells a good product/service, the internet will reward you for it. Also, complaints are an opportunity to turn an unhappy customer to a brand ambassador, show them you care and they will appreciate your effort.

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So, which type of media contributes best to your lead generation efforts?

A successful marketing strategy doesn’t rely on one tactic alone.

Generating relevant quality leads who will potentially turn into customers requires you regularly publish valuable and engaging content, explore guest blogging opportunities, identify opportunities for new marketing campaigns, and devise a strategy for promoting the said content.

To be fully effective paid, earned, and indeed owned media must converge and be integrated as far as is possible within your marketing strategies and limitations.

Understanding the differences between each type of media - earned, owned, and paid, and how to combine them is critical for your lead generation efforts.

Combining earned, owned, and paid media will help you attract, convert, nurture and close leads. Find what mix of earned and paid media works for you by focusing on your overall marketing goals. Your goals should be SMART goals (i.e. Specific, measurable, time bound and realistic). Evaluate:

  • What are your goals? Is this leads, customers, or revenue? Different medias can serve different goals.
  • what is the lifetime value (LTV) of each customer? What is your LTV goal and how can you expect to generate ROI on your media efforts?
  • Who are you yourtarget customers and what are the steps in their typical buyer’s journey? How can you make sure to leverage the different types of media to get noticed by them on each stage of their journey?
  • What are the Targets/Metrics that you will use to measure your efforts?
  • How soon do you need to generate results by? Owned media takes time to get noticed by search engines. It’s not realistic to rely on it alone when pressed for time

Each goal will require a different combination of media, finding the right mix and constantly evaluating and measuring it against set KPIs will help you reach your marketing goals.

The bottom line

Create engaging, customer focused, problem-solving content with owned media. Place that content strategically through well-targeted and planned paid media. Earn your audience’s trust and support to develop a strong network of brand ambassadors.

If you found this useful, and you're curious to learn more and find out how to step up your lead geneation, we invite you to download our 30 greatest lead generation tips, tricks and ideasGet your FREE copy now >>

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About Barak Hajaj

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Barak is a veteran in the digital marketing industry, he has initiated, produced and promoted marketing strategies and campaigns for tier-1 global companies. He's experienced in a broad range of advertising and marketing functions, mainly focusing on inbound marketing, SEO and PPC with diverse industry segments.

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