Owned, Earned, Paid & Shared Media Explained

Hands playing on phones
Hands playing on phones

Being a successful MarCom professional is quite a challenge.

Sure, reaching out to one’s audience has never been as easy as today. But the amount and complexity of the many media channels on offer make it a lot more difficult to roll out successful marketing and communication campaigns.

Until recently, we had to juggle with 3 defined communication channels: owned, earned, and paid media. With the rise of social media platforms, we’ve seen a new channel emerge: shared media. Each one of these channels serves a specific purpose and requires a specific approach that you need to master to thrive.

In this blog post, we go over the concept of the PESO Model and explain how marketers can leverage the convergence of paid, earned, shared, and owned media to build integrated marketing campaigns. Gini Dietrich is the creator of the PESO Model concept, which is outlined below.

To learn how to leverage all four media channels, download the Ultimate Guide to Owned, Earned, Paid & Shared Media. Download your guide for free.

Table of Contents

Owned, Earned, Paid & Shared Media Definitions

Let's start off with the most important PESO definitions.

What is owned media?

Owned media refers to what is yours. In the conversational Era of social media, where businesses have conceded a lot of space to their audience, it is the only organic channel you still control as a MarCom professional. It encompasses your website, your content resources, your newsletters, and social media accounts.

You can split it into 2 categories: 

  • The content that you host (website & content resources)
  • The content that you share (newsletter & social media accounts)

Your website and blog

Your website: This is your most valuable owned media asset. Not only is it a long-term platform on which you have total control over, but it is also where you can directly convert visitors into clients.

Your content: A thorough content marketing strategy is one of the best ways to establish a long-term relationship with your audience and demonstrate your thought-leadership on a given topic. In that sense, blogs, ebooks, and webinars are a direct extension of your brand and expertise.

Note that a recent Edelman Earned Brand report (2018) showed that 64% of consumers want companies to take a stand on social issues. Your blog is an ideal platform to open up on causes that you deem important.

The meltwater blog

To learn more, read: 5 Blogging Mistakes That Make Your Readers Switch Off.

Your newsletter and social media accounts

If you don’t promote your content, don’t expect anyone to do it for you.

Your social media accounts: Even though you have no control over the social media channels themselves, you do own your accounts and, therefore, have control over what to post and when to share it with your audience.

To learn more, read: How to Increase Engagement on Social Media.

Your newsletter: To this day, email marketing remains one of the most efficient forms of owned media. Campaign Monitor revealed that, on average, consumers’ favorite method of communication with brands is always email, regardless of the market. More even, email is favored 2 to 3 times more compared to social media communications.

Owned media is powerful because it allows brands to communicate controlled messages to their audience. The counterpart is that it is only targeting an audience who is already familiar with their company. Therefore, it is not the greatest source to acquire new customers and see their business thrive.

- Angela Wiesenmüller, EMEA Marketing Director, Meltwater

How to Leverage Owned Media for Lead Generation

Owned media is your PR paradise. You have complete control over how to create and use each piece of content you create. However, there has to be a method to your madness.

“Think like a publisher, not a marketer.” – David Meerman Scott, marketing and leadership speaker

Here are a few tips to get your owned media going in the right direction:

  • Create a purpose for each piece of content. Are you trying to get new leads? Nurture existing leads? Increase brand awareness?
  • Include plenty of visual content, such as videos, images, GIFs, infographics. Mix it up a bit.
  • Write for both search engines and people. When you write a headline, ask yourself if you would click on it. Better yet, ask someone else.
  • Attach analytics to each piece of content in order to gauge interest in the topic you’re promoting.

What is paid media?

Paid media refers to the media exposure you pay for on a platform or space owned by another business or brand. 

It’s the most pragmatic way to reach out to new audiences. You might associate paid media with print, TV, or radio advertising, but paid media has evolved into something much more digital and direct. Today, effective means of paid media include native advertising, social media campaigns, search engine ads (SEA), and retargeting.

Native advertising

The term native advertising refers to ads designed to look like regular content.

Here’s an example from Forbes.com, where readers can see a Paid Program tag to differentiate between regular content and sponsored content.

A screen shot of sponsored blogs

It is estimated that 3.8 billion people are actively using social media platforms. Therefore, it is fair to assume that your audience is most likely on social media.

This makes paid social media campaigns one of the best ways to increase your reach, generate new business opportunities, boost engagement with your brand, and drive more traffic to your website.

What’s more, social ads allow you to target social media users based on socio-demographic criteria such as location, language, age, or even personal interests, thus making it easier for brands to only target the most relevant people.

On social media platforms, most social ads are designed to appear as native advertising and blend into the user experience. On Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, or Instagram, ads — flagged as sponsored content — can appear in your target audience’s feed.

Instagram feed for monday.com

Search Engine Advertising (SEA) 

Paid search can help businesses to generate traffic based on what their target audience is looking for on search engines.

A screenshot of google search

When targeting relevant keywords, paid search can bump your business ahead of the competition, if you’re ready to pay the price. The higher the demand on a keyword, the higher the price.


Retargeting allows you to retarget visitors once they leave your website. Here's how it works:

  1. A visitor lands on your website
  2. The visitor leaves your website
  3. The visitor sees your ad on a third-party website and potentially comes back
GIF showing how retargeting works

Although paid media is a fantastic way of getting your messages, products or services in front of the right audience, it is still a form of advertising, and your audience knows that it is biased.

To learn more, download our Ultimate Guide to Owned, Earned, Paid & Shared Media. The guide covers how to use each channel and best leverage them for your campaigns. Get it now.

How to Leverage Paid Media for Lead Generation

Paid media is the one method many don’t want to acknowledge. Perhaps it’s because they see so many other effective PR methods that are virtually free.

However, paid media is equally important. One reason for this is because paid media is a better bet when searching for new buyers that never heard of your brand.

Paid social media campaigns for example can reach those who are interested in your industry, not just in your personal brand. These prospects may not be searching for you online, but now Facebook has made them aware of your presence without their ever navigating off the same page they use to communicate with loved ones.

Likewise, paying to have your blog posts distributed via native advertising allows your expertise to reach a wide audience. Learn more about how that works in my recent blog post on native advertising.

What is earned media?

Earned media describes the attention you receive from sources that you do not control. This includes websites, review sites, media outlets, and blogs mentioning your brand. While these mentions are valuable for readers to discover, word-of-mouth mentions from friends or acquaintances can sometimes be more beneficial when trying to convert a consumer into a customer.

Earned media happens when a third-party endorses your brand.

Earned media should come naturally if your owned and paid media channels are performing.

- Perri Robinson, EMEA Enterprise Marketing ManagerOnline review sites

Did you know 76% of consumers trust online reviews as much as recommendations from family and friends? In other words, organic reviews and testimonials are one of the best ways to gain credibility. 

Organic influencer reviews

Even if you can't pay influencers to promote your brand, they can also advocate for you and talk about your brand organically — simply because they like you. This matters a lot because 63% of consumers aged 18-to-34 say that they trust influencers more than brands, according to an Edelman study (2019).

This is something we observe in the world of product reviews.

Here’s an example of this following the release of the video game The Last of Us Part 2 in June 2020. Less than a month following the release, Google indicated over 300k results for the exact search terms “last of us part 2 review”.

And because we’re dealing with a video game here, YouTube is also populated with thousands of reviews from journalists, influencers, and casual players (An example of shared media).

Examples of online product reviews

While the game seems to be controversial, this type of exposure is pure gold for Naughty Dog, the studio behind the game, and Sony, the publisher.

How to Leverage Earned Media for Lead Generation

We’ll start with earned media because it can be one of the trickiest to master. The reason is that you have less control over this type of media. You can’t simply ask someone to plug your product or service. As the name suggests, you must earn it.

How can you do this without sounding, well… sleazy, clingy, desperate?

Simply put, you need to to be a friend to get a friend.

If you want to get noticed by bloggers who will promote your brand, start by reaching out to those whose work you truly admire. These are the ones that whose email updates make it past your trash file. The ones who get you thinking about your industry and who inspire you.

Reach out to these bloggers via social media and leave comments on their posts.

Next, join HARO (help a reporter out). This service notifies you when a reporter is looking for an industry expert to quote in a piece.

Lastly, make it easy for others to like you by responding graciously on social media sites, leaving positive LinkedIn endorsements for those you’ve collaborated with on projects, and promoting thought leaders on social media.

What is shared media?

Shared media encompasses any and all content posted to social media regarding your brand. Shared media includes posts to platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Instagram.

These posts could come from brands, media outlets and individuals.

Combine all four channels to see the best results

All four channels aren’t only interconnected; they are interdependent.

  • Owned media won't get any traction unless you can leverage other distribution channels that you do not own.
  • Paid media won’t deliver without a first owned media impulse.
  • Shared and earned media won’t work if you don’t have anything (owned media) to share to begin with.

For your MarCom strategy to deliver the best results, you need to juggle with all four channels.

A diagram showcasing different media types in bubbles

Let’s take two simple examples:

Example 1. You publish a blog post

Say you share your content via your newsletter and social media accounts to notify your existing audience about your latest piece of content. If they like what they see, a significant part of them will talk about it with their relatives (earned media) and/or share it on social media (shared media).

Now, let's say you share the news with thought leaders. Here again, they will likely share it with their audience if they find it insightful. And if your message is relevant, it has the potential to circulate virally via both earned and shared media channels. Here’s an example of this from LinkedIn.

  1. A post is shared on social media and received a ton of engagement (15,000+ reactions and 800+ comments).
  2. The post is then shared by another thought leader, who introduces it to a new audience who engages with the content (an additional 10,000+ reactions and 400+ comments).
A screenshot of conversation on LinkedIn

What’s more, if you play your cards well and use relevant hashtags to promote your content, or place it in relevant Facebook or LinkedIn groups (not limited to), you may even reach a much broader audience.

Example 2. You introduce a new product on the market

If you believe that your latest product is groundbreaking, you may choose to send a press release to industry journalists. If they are interested in the product, they'll cover your story and receive earned media.

Here’s an example of an article from Wired mentioning the Impossible Burger: the fake meat that bleeds.

A Wired story about the Impossible Burger

And if your media budget allows for it, you could promote your content and products through paid media channels.

The possibilities and combinations are infinite. While the right dosage will vary depending on your market and audience, you should absolutely try and activate all four channels.

Did you identify the one similarity between the two scenarios? YOU need to activate extra media channels. Start by spreading your story. If your audience finds it relevant, they will, in turn, share it with their audience.

- Angela Wiesenmüller, EMEA Marketing Director, Meltwater

How to Integrate Earned, Owned, Shared, and Paid Media Into One Awesome Lead-Generation Campaign

Each PR method can certainly be used as a stand-alone product. However, they really shine when combined into a single effort. Let’s take a look at how that might work.

Let’s start with a great piece of owned media, say a blog post. In a perfect world, this blog post would attract your best leads and prospects all on its own. However, the truth is that it’s unlikely to be noticed unless you put a little effort into its promotion.

Next, you’ll want to promote the post on social, or shared, media. This isn’t a one-time deal, either. Rather, you need to promote the post over the following days, weeks, and even months in order for it to gain decent traction.

Once you see that your piece of content has been well-received, you’ll know that you’ve hit a hot topic. You can then begin to promote it using paid media, in the form of Twitter or Facebook campaigns.

Carefully gaining traction in this way adds to your credibility as a thought leader in your industry. It’s then that you’ll start to see your earned media come through for you.

How to Track Owned, Earned, Paid & Shared Media


Track Owned Media


Track Earned Media


Track Paid Media


Track Shared Media


Be the actor of your success

You now know the differences between all four media channels and how much they need each other to exist and deliver results.

Remember that there is no such thing as luck when it comes to success. You need to be the actor of your own success.

Now you understand the basics of the PESO model, download our Ultimate Guide to Owned, Earned, Paid & Shared Media for a more in-depth overview of each channel and campaigns.