The Big 3: How to Promote Your Content Across Paid, Earned and Owned Media

The Big 3: How to Promote Your Content Across Paid, Earned and Owned Media

Few brands need convincing about the importance of  content marketing. From the big players to the smaller business, everyone is furiously creating useful, engaging and fun content to enhance their digital presence and attract customers.

So it comes as no surprise that 60% of B2C marketers are planning to increase their content marketing spend in 2014.

Now that everyone has caught the content bug, you’ll find a vast amount of resources telling you which types of content you should be creating. But what a lot of these so-called guides and articles lack is clear advice on how to promote what you publish.

Not properly promoting what you produce can leave a huge gaping hole in your content marketing campaigns. It’s like organising a birthday party but not sending out the invites.

Most of us set out with good intentions, like tweeting an article, but a lot of the time, the promotion is incoherent which can make it incredibly difficult to prove your return on investment.

It’s great that so many of us recognise that content marketing is integral to building our business, but now’s the time to hone your strategy with ample promotion.

In this article, I’m going to talk about how you can use the big three to supercharge your content’s promotion. By the big three, I mean;
[list_item]Owned media[/list_item]
By targeting these three channels, you’ll begin to see an increase in how many people are talking about your brand, both online and offline.

What is paid earned and owned media?

Paid, earned and owned media are terms that I’m sure you’re already familiar with, but you might not know which of your marketing activities they’re associated with. I’m going to define what exactly each channel refers to and how you can promote your content across all three. I’ll then complete the circle by discussing how you can integrate each media to boost your campaigns’ performance going forward.

Owned media: syndicate your brand’s assets

So, if we’re talking about your brand, “owned media” refers to what your brand owns. For example, you’ll have some sort of social media presence, like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Google+ and Pinterest etc..

You’ll have an email list of clients and non-clients.

You should also have a blog – usually your first point of call to publish your content – and of course, your own website.

All of these are the basic avenues for promoting your content.

Let’s take one recent example of Receptional’s branded content, our Complete Guide to AdWords Ad Extensions


I’ll provide some examples of how I can repurpose and promote this guide across our digital platforms.

Social Media

The guide contains some juicy statistics about increased click-through rates when using different sitelinks. We could cut and paste some stats into our social updates e.g.:

facebook update

Note how I’ve included a link back to the download page. This will push traffic to the landing page and should increase downloads.

The guide might contain a unique and engaging infographic or imagery, so you could crop part of the infographic and share it on Facebook in order to take advantage of the emphasis upon imagery in Facebook’s NewsFeed.


We could create a couple of articles based upon the guide and publish these on our blog. Here’s one we did earlier titled: Increase your AdWords CTR in under ten minutes (part 1)

Email Marketing

We could also promote the guide in our newsletter, directing subscribers to the download page. This is another way to gain greater social distribution. Here’s how we advertised the guide in our weekly newsletter:

adwords email marketing

The one thing that will combine all of these tactics is to make sure that you’re always linking back to the original source. This will help to increase the exposure of individual pieces of content, pushing traffic back to your website.

Next up: paid media.

Paid media: buying attention

Some marketers are reluctant to pay for promotion because they’re still under the impression that all content marketing is free.

Well, in some respects you’re already paying for your content marketing as you pay someone to create it don’t you?

Anyway, for content that you want to be seen by a larger audience, paid promotion can be very useful – and I’m not just talking about Google AdWords.

Here’s an example: let’s say you’re a florist who wants to grow their social media community.

Whilst it wouldn’t make business sense to pay to promote a weekly visual roundup of your latest bouquets, if you paid to promote a competition, you’ll likely gain more exposure and interaction from users. Take the brand ‘Funny how flowers do that’ for example. They’ve paid to promote a competition where Facebook users could win a bouquet:

win a bouquet

But in order for competition entrants to find out more, they’ll have to click-through to Funny how flowers do that’s Facebook page, and in order for people to enter, they must first like their page.

The reason why these types of sponsored posts are successful  is because thy elicit an emotional response from your target audience, which is likely to garner likes, shares, comments and even competition entrants, in this example’s case.  Just look at how many people have liked that one post already!

Let’s take a look at other forms of paid promotion and how best to use them:

Sponsored Tweets, Facebook posts and LinkedIn Ads

Make sure you pay to promote content on a network with a suitable demographic. For example, a sponsored post about craft and handmade items is likely to achieve greater traction on Facebook as opposed to LinkedIn.

All social networks that allow sponsored posts let you target your ad to the most relevant audience. You can target users by interest, gender, geographic, or even by device. You can even upload a list of newsletter subscribers email addresses for optimal targeting. Here’s an example of a promoted tweet from the National Gallery in my Twitter Feed. I follow the National Gallery therefore I’m being targeted with this promoted Tweet:

promoted tweet


Outbrain is a content promotion network, which works in two ways: 1. Engaging your readers and generating revenue by including links to third-party content on your blog; and 2. Amplifying your content and driving traffic by recommending it near other articles on top publisher sites. You’ll definitely have seen the Outbrain widget at the bottom of many publisher sites:


The outbrain algorithm is pretty smart, so it will only suggest articles to readers that are related to the content they’ve just read. This is perfect for getting more of your branded content read by visitors and keeping them on your website for longer.

The outbrain widget is easy to install and won’t cost the earth. You’re able to set your CPC (Cost Per Click) on a daily basis, so you won’t exceed your budget.

Retargeting on your display network

Retargeting is a feature that lets you reach people who have previously visited your site, and shows them relevant ads about your products or services as they surf across the web. For example, when people leave your site without buying anything, retargeting helps you to connect with these potential customers again. You can even show them a tailored message or offer that will encourage them to return to your site and complete a purchase. Here’s an example from ModCloth, which conveniently links back to their shop:


By embracing paid promotion, you’ll quickly be able to understand which types of content are best received by your target audience. Also, paid promotion is a useful fall-back plan for when you need to give a particular campaign a boost. For example, if you’re running an event and you haven’t sold as many tickets as you would have hoped by a certain point, you can use Facebook advertising to target people in the local area that might be interested in attending.

Earned media: third party endorsements

The final component of the big three is earned media. It’s often the most coveted form of exposure due to the credibility and influence it creates for your organisation.

For example, if a third party shares your YouTube video or your latest blog post it’s a very positive signal. In some senses, it’s like a third party is vouching for your business without you explicitly having to tell them (or pay them) to do so.  This form of recommendation is huge and can be highly influential to your target audience.

Let’s take a look at some different types of earned media:

Social shares from individual accounts:

An individual might share your content via their personal LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, Facebook, Instagram account. In terms of traffic, these mentions can yield anything from first time visitors to your site, to website-breaking volumes of traffic. And, the more influential a social media user is, the wider the reach of the recommendation.

Getting picked up in the press

Just because we work in the digital sphere, doesn’t mean we should underestimate the power of traditional advertising.

For example, your PR team target a women’s magazine with a study about women’s health and smoking. This is printed in their monthly magazine. A day or two later, this is referenced in an article on a newspaper’s website. This article is then tweeted and shared by many people creating a buzz and generating a a great deal of website visitors.

This goes to show that even though something has initially been printed offline, doesn’t mean that it won’t translate into content online.

Bloggers writing about your content

Nowadays bloggers want to be treated as journalists, and in some cases, I can’t really see a difference.

If you want to start reaching these influencers, make sure you have a process for collating a list of authoritative bloggers who write about similar things to the content you’re wanting to promote. You can do this by simply mocking up a spreadsheet in Google Docs.

But remember, if you want them to write about your content for free, make sure you have something that will add genuine value to their blog and editorial. This could be an exclusive, like a collection of pictures, innovative research or even an infographic.

Content aggregators

Sites like Reddit, Inbound, Mashable and Imgur receive vast amounts of traffic and content aggregators exist in almost every niche, so make sure you choose the most relevant. Even if you don’t immediately see any uplift in traffic from an item shared on a site like those mentioned, it’s a great place to reach out to key online influencers.

So whilst all of these earned media outlets exist, they aren’t mutually exclusive because a story might start on a social site, get picked up on Mashable, then be written about in The Guardian which is then blogged about by an influential writer.

So the way to prepare for this is to make sure that every piece of content you create already has inbuilt earned media appeal.

How can you do this?

Here are a number of ways that you can ensure your content has the earned media factor.

Include quotable/citable stuff

If you include highly authoritative research say, from a scientific paper, small snippets of content, like stats and figures, work well on Twitter.

Make sure you content can be repurposed in different forms

For example, Mediahawk has created the Legal Marketer’s Guide to Call Tracking.

The legal marketer's guide to analytics

They could guest blog subsections of this guide on a number of legal industry websites and link back to the original document.

Encourage social sharing

Your website should have social share buttons displayed prominently. Bu you can also use something called Twitter Web Intents to encourage shares of pre-written tweets.  By setting up 140 character Tweets from your content, you have complete control over what tweeters say within their tweets, like this:

Twitter web intents



Write for coverage

Observe where you want coverage from, make a list of publications and make sure your content matches their themes.


If your content has visual elements make them embeddable or even re-pinnable for Pinterest.

It’s all about making the whole process of sharing quick and easy for the end user.

Combining all three: paid, earned and owned media

Previously, all of these types of media were deeply siloed, when really they should complement and feed off of one another. For example, paid promotion of your owned media assets could lead to earned media. Whereas paid and owned media could amplify earned media for increased credibility.

Ideally, your owned and paid media will ignite a foray of earned media which will give the impression that your brand is everywhere. Whilst this isn’t unachievable it’s best to embed owned and paid media into your strategy first of all, which will in turn lead to earned media.

It’s this fusion that will earn you scale and trust without having to blow masses of budget across every single marketing avenue.

But don’t forget: earned media is the most sought after. Because anything that you say about your brand and business is immediately suspect and looks like a sales pitch. But when it comes from a third party, it’s trusted and a lot more valuable in comparison to simply using owned and paid media.

To attain this sort of amplification, you should use your owned and paid media to boost your earned wins, thus, you’ll be completing the three-pronged strategy that is guaranteed to maximise your traffic, exposure and engagement.

Here’s some ways to amplify your earned media.

Blog about it

You’d be right in thinking that a reciprocal link back to the story might not do much to increase your exposure, or even your backlink profile, but there are a couple of other things blogging will achieve:

  • Expressing public gratitude and present your perspective on it;
  • It would expose the earned media to your loyal fans and followers

Brag about it on social media

Feel free to share the earned wins across your owned media. You could tweet @ the orginal creator of the earned media in order to prolong the exposure and get your followers involved in the conversation.

Send earned media to your subscribers list

If you’ve racked up a hefty number of earned wins, then why not send a top five list to your subscribers. This will in turn increase the likelihood of them sharing the earned media.

Use the earned and turn it into owned

The great thing about earned media is that it’s an outsider’s perspective on your products or services. They might provide a unique insight that you hadn’t thought about before. You could then use their content and repurpose it under your own native platforms. You could even address the issues raised in your own evergreen content which might even pick up on relevant keyword searches – great for SEO!

Don’t forget: the key to being successful with the big three is completing the circle.

If you think your content is lacking a promotional strategy, get in touch with Receptional and we’ll help you to get to grips with the big three.


Zoe-Lee Skelton

Senior SEO Consultant

Zoe-Lee is responsible for creating Receptional’s content strategies. Her work has encompassed everything from performing keyword research to re-writing a company’s entire website. She has created successful content marketing plans for clients from a variety of industries, Zoe-Lee is analytics qualified. In her spare time Zoe-Lee enjoys writing her blog, photography and getting outdoors.

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