Earned, owned and paid media: What it all means and the opportunities it creates

Honest Communications, a specialist garden and home PR agency, social media management, content creation and communications agency

Marketing is about creating as many touch points for consumes with a brand or company as possible to boost exposure. It’s about getting in front of the right people, by all means possible.

The best communications plans utilise all avenues to do this and tie in as many marketing strategies as possible (or as many as budget, time and resources allow).

Content within these can generally be grouped under three terms – earned, owned and paid. These terms often get banded around without any context or explanation, so let’s take a few minutes to find out what they mean.


PR is our speciality so this one is our favourite, and we aren’t alone. As Mark Zuckerberg said “A trusted referral is the Holy Grail of advertising.”

Earned media does exactly what it says on the tin. You have earned it by hard work, building a quality product or service, or delivering excellent customer service and this has been recognised in someone else’s content – PR at its best!

This can be a mention in an article, a review, or as simple as a tag on social media. It is any form of third-party promotion of you or your brand that helps create word of mouth (as long as money hasn’t been exchanged, but we’ll come to that).

Earned media however is perhaps the hardest of the three to achieve. It is the one that is beyond your control and has no guarantees. It takes the longest and requires time to build relationships and reputations but when it happens it really pays off as people value a genuine endorsement far more than a paid for advert.


Owned media involves the art of self promotion!

With owned media you don’t have to rely on other people to publish on your behalf, you can create your own content and have absolute full control over what is said. These are channels where you have complete free rein like your website, social media, blog or newsletters.


Paid content is any space you have exchanged money to feature in.

This was once largely print advertising but nowadays it includes digital advertising, social media ads and influencer campaigns.

Influencer campaigns are a bit of a grey area between paid and earned. #ad and #spon have made it easier to spot where an influencer has been paid to endorse a product or brand but this can easily be missed and content can appear to be earned when in fact it is paid. A genuine earned endorsement from an influencer can be marketing gold but unfortunately they are hard to come by!

Earned, owned and paid didn’t be treated as separate strands. The best strategies crossover (find out more in our previous blog post about repurposing content to make your budget go further).

You can use your earned media to create owned content, and can then pay to boost it. For example, you’ve had a glowing review in an article online (earned), grab the link and post it on your social media (owned), then pay to run a social media ad campaign to boost the reach (paid). Simple, but oh so effective!!

To find out how Honest Communications can help you generate earned, owned or paid content (or all three!) get in touch!