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One of my favorite songs from childhood is, “Three is a Magic Number,” from the old Schoolhouse Rock series. I’m not really sure why it appeals to me so much, maybe it’s just because, “Somewhere in the ancient mystic trinity, you get three as a magic number.” One line is, “It takes three legs to make a tripod, or to make a table stand.” Well, I’d argue that it takes three legs to make an effective PR strategy stand as well. Earned, owned and paid media all have important roles to play.
Earned media is probably the first thing that jumps to mind when people think of PR. It is also the only area that is usually completely managed by PR professionals and agencies. Earned media is simply any publicity that is owned and created by a third party that was not paid for by a brand. People are far more trusting of information from third parties than they are of content produced by brands, making earned media the most valuable asset that you can’t buy. In fact, according to Nielsen, 85% of buyers regularly or occasionally consult third party sources before making a buying decision. Keep in mind, that earned media extends beyond just professional reporters. Online reviews, social shares, and star ratings are also examples of earned media.
So if earned media is the type most closely associated with PR, is it more important than owned and paid assets? Not really. Here’s why –
Owned assets are essential for any effective PR strategy for a number of reasons. First, owned content is often used to attract the attention of those who are in the position to share your brand’s messages and stories. A press release is a great example of an owned asset that is created for the purpose of gaining earned media. Along with the press release, other owned assets, such as case studies, infographics, and videos can be used to support media outreach efforts. Guest blogs are an effective PR tool that fall in the “owned” category. Well done owned assets are also likely to be shared on social media and by those who might influence your audience.
Paid is probably the type of media least associated with PR, but nonetheless it can serve a vital role. Your earned and owned assets aren’t very valuable if no one sees them. Paid content placement can boost the value of each. Although buyers are less inclined to trust paid media, it still has value as an effective way to get your message to audiences quickly and in a form that you control. Content distribution networks like Outbrain can help you reach new audiences. Paid social promotion and retargeting ads can drive traffic to your website and increase content interaction.
No one type of media is more important than the other. They all go hand in hand as methods of promoting your brand. Like the song says,
“Every triangle has three corners,
Every triangle has three sides,
No more, no less.
You don't have to guess.
When it's three, you can see
It's a magic number.”