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Owned, Earned, Paid & Shared Media Explained


Aug 31, 2023

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MarCom professionals have seen quite the evolution in their industry and the scope of their role over the past decade or so. On the one hand, reaching out to one’s audience has never been easier. But the complexity of the many media channels now available can make it difficult to roll out successful and cohesive marketing and communication campaigns. Understanding the definitions of paid, earned, owned, and shared media and their specific purposes is essential for modern marketing and communications teams.

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 we've outlined below.

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

Table of Contents

Owned, Earned, Paid & Shared Media Definitions

Let's start off with an overview of PESO definitions.

Owned media

Owned media refers to any content that originates with you.

Traditionally this has meant website content and newsletters, but the definition of owned media has expanded to include your brand social accounts as well.

Therefore you can split owned media into 2 categories: 

  • The content that you host (website and other resources such as in-app help articles)
  • The content that you share (newsletter & social media accounts)

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

Website content

For most business, your website is your most valuable owned media asset. It is where you house owned media such as blog articles designed for SEO, landing pages that illustrate who you are, and where you convert visitors into customers and clients. Your owned content strategy is a big part part of customer acquisition.

A thorough content marketing strategy is one of the best ways to establish a long-term relationship with your audience through demonstrating thought-leadership, representing your brand values, and offering useful information on topics pertinent to your industry.

Blogs, ebooks, and webinars are a direct extension of your brand and expertise. Other types of owned content include any in-app messaging you might offer, such as help articles.

An example of owned media is a website blog page. This image shows the homepage for the Meltwater blog

See B2B content marketing tips and building a content marketing strategy to learn more!

Newsletter and social media accounts

If you don’t promote your content, the chances of it being seen are extremely minimal. Use your owned channels to get more eyes and interest on your brand.

Social media accounts: Social media is one of the best ways to promote content, and even though you don't have control over how content gets shared, you can control the message on your owned accounts.

Check out some of the best social media marketing examples from this year for inspiration!

Your newsletter: Having a regular newsletter that you can send through email marketing is another extremely effective method for getting your content out into the world — while controlling the message.

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

It’s a valuable way to widen your reach via print, TV, radio, and digital advertising on channels like podcasts or social.

Native advertising

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

Here’s an example from Forbes, 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 over 4 billion people are actively using social media platforms.

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 web traffic.

What’s more, social ads allow you to target users based on 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.

Instagram feed for

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.

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.

Earned media

Earned media describes the attention you receive from sources that you do not control.

This includes websites, review sites, media outlets, podcasts, social posts, and blogs mentioning your brand.

Earned media happens when a third-party endorses your brand. And if you're doing your owned and paid media strategies right, then earned media should follow.

Online 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 still advocate for you and talk about your brand organically — simply because they like you. Un-prompted product reviews are one of the best examples of this.

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

YouTube as well also saw a surge in searches and video reviews.

Examples of online product reviews

Shared media

Shared media encompasses any and all content posted to social media regarding your brand (that isn't posted by you — that of course would fall under owned media). Shared media includes posts to platforms such as X (formerly Twitter), Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, and TikTok.

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

Leveraging 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 the madness.

Tips to get your owned media strategy going in the right direction:

  • Have a clear goal for each piece of content. Are you trying to get new leads? Nurture existing leads? Increase brand awareness?
  • Include plenty of visual content. Videos, images, GIFs, and infographics go a long way to increasing engagement.
  • Write for both search engines and people. When you write a headline, ask yourself if you would click on it (and then ask if the content on the page matches what you would expect to see. No one likes click-bait and you will get penalized for it!).
  • Track content performance. Attach metrics to each piece of content so you can gauge interest in the topic and make sure you're meeting your audiences expectations. See 50 content marketing metrics to get started!

Leveraging Paid Media for Lead Generation

Since paid media is advertising, it can be viewed with a certain amount of distrust on the part of the consumer. So it's best used as a way to increase brand awareness when expanding into new markets and getting in front of people who have never heard of you.

Paid social media campaigns can reach those who are interested in your industry or product type.

Additionally, paying to have your blog posts distributed via sponsored posts on other sites allows your more though-leadership focused content to reach a wider audience.

Leveraging Earned Media for Lead Generation

Earned media can be one of the trickiest types to master. The reason is that you have far 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. But this doesn't mean you sit back and do nothing.

Achieving earned media takes masterful relationship building, and it helps if you can cultivate a large network. Start by reaching out to bloggers, journalists, podcasters, and influencers whose work you truly admire. You can connect with them on social media by commenting and sharing their posts, or simply shoot them an email to compliment an article or episode that struck you.

UGC is another form of earned media that requires great finesse and strategy on the part of your social marketing team. Encourage people to tag you, used a branded hashtag, and share their enthusiasm for your brand on social with their networks. You can do this ins several ways, but one of the most effective is a simple reshare when you've been tagged. It takes very little time or energy to let your followers know you appreciate when they give you a should-out.

Learn more about building and managing UGC as part of your marketing strategy and check out some great UGC examples!

You could also leave positive LinkedIn endorsements for those you’ve collaborated with on projects as a good tactic for keeping in touch with your network. The ol' tried and true "I'll scratch your back and you scratch mine" approach.

Combine All Four Media Channels For the Best Results

All four PESO 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.
  • Shared and earned media won’t work if you don’t have a robust owned media strategy that continues producing new content.
  • Paid media won’t deliver good results unless your owned media is strong and engaging.

Two examples of paid, earned, owned, and shared media working together

The interconnectivity of how these channels work together is important to appreciate for modern marketers and communications pros. Here are just a couple examples to illustrate:

1. You publish a blog post

Say you share center your next newsletter and social media posts around notifying your existing audience about your latest piece of content. If they like what they see, many will want to talk about it with friends and relatives (earned media) and they may share it on social media, or by forwarding your email on to people they think would also like it (shared media).

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

  1. A post is shared and receives 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

If you play your cards right and use relevant hashtags to promote your content, or share it in relevant Facebook or LinkedIn groups, you can reach a much broader audience.

Example 2. You introduce a new product into the market

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

Here’s an example of an article from Wired on the "Impossible Burger".

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 blend will vary depending on your market and audience, you should absolutely try and activate all four channels.

Integrating Earned, Owned, Shared, and Paid Media Into One Cohesive Lead-Generation Campaign

Each PR method can certainly be used as a stand-alone. 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.

Download our Ultimate Guide to Owned, Earned, Paid & Shared Media for a more in-depth overview of each channel and how to use them in your campaigns.