“Content marketing” is a perhaps the fastest-growing marketing tactic being used today. While it’s definitely become mainstream, there are lots of issues around how to create it, how to manage it…even how to think about it.

The Content Marketing Institute has a new study, “B2B Content Marketing 2014: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends–North America”, that shows who’s doing it (most of us)—

Percent of marketers using content

…who’s getting results (some of us)—

Marketers who get results with content

….and how those results are gained:

How markers use content effectively

It looks very much as though the organizations that take content marketing seriously – give it a leader, invest in content creation, develop and document a content marketing strategy – do better that ones that don’t.

We can’t help with those first two factors, but we do have a strategy that’s easy to grasp, document, and implement. Under the name “3 Strategies for Driving Website Leads” my colleague Sherry Lamoreaux and I delivered a webinar that examined how to use content with the three types of media: Paid, Owned, and Earned, and how you can look at those media as a structure you can build a content marketing strategy around.

3 Types of Media

Paid, owned, and earned media relationships

Paid media is positive publicity you gain through paid advertising. You pay for this, usually for time or space. The channels you choose could include tradeshows, outdoor, pay per click, search, newspapers, TV, radio, magazines, signage, movie screens, sponsorships, direct mail, etc. You have to create content for these channels. The big pluses: You totally control the message, and you create early-funnel awareness of your brand or category. The big minus? It’s not trustworthy.

Paid media

Owned media includes distribution and promotion channels that you control, such as your web pages, landing pages, blog, Facebook page, and Twitter account. You create content for these channels, such as white papers, blog posts, infographics, tweets, images, videos on YouTube or Vimeo, and so on. Once other people begin distributing your content, it will become earned media. Big plus: you can control the messaging, and you can target niche audiences. Biggest con? It’s expensive in resources and time, and it can be hard to manage.

Owned media

When you create content for owned channels, start with the assumption that you will re-use every big piece of content. A hefty white paper can become a webinar and several blog posts. It can be pieced out into one-pagers the sales department can use. The webinar presentation is recorded and put online as an on-demand asset. The deck goes to SlideShare and Pinterest. At every step, there is a deliberate social strategy put into play – in the channels your existing customers and best prospects spend their time. (That’s called “fishing in a stocked pond.” Don’t spend your time blazing new channels if your customers won’t be there. Do the research so you know where to spend your precious resources.)

Owned media is really good for mid-funnel prospects who are researching their options and not ready to talk to a vendor yet. (These days, most will be something like 70% through the sales funnel before they reach out or respond to a vendor, so your content has to do the talking for you.)

Earned media is positive publicity gained through channels where you are not doing the distribution yourself. Press, reviews on sites such as Yelp or Angie’s List or AppExchange, comments on Google+, RTs on Twitter and shares on Facebook, and so on, are all examples. As an example of process, it could work like this: You create content (a press release), pitch your story to a news organization, and get a story. The story is earned media, and so are the comments and tweets it garners.

Same with social media or other word-of-mouth tactics: You create a tweet (creating content) and post it on Twitter (using owned media) and others find it worthy and retweet it. Those retweets are earned media. You can also work with your advocacy groups and encourage them to post reviews on busy sites and popular forums. The con: You can’t control earned. The BIG pro: It’s the most trustworthy medium, and one prospective buyers actively seek out. So you need to be there.

Earned media

Earned media is powerful at all stages of the funnel. It’s good for awareness, good for validating a soft decision, and good for rallying advocacy and encouraging post-sales customer growth.

Earned is the most valuable media, but it’s also the one you can’t quite buy. You can set up circumstances with great messaging and visuals, you can (sometimes) pay social influencers, but people can smell authenticity, and they usually know when a good review is from an independent source. Your best bets here are to create community that helps inspire your most loyal customers to be vocal about your company’s strengths, and to be tireless in telling your sharable stories.

Bring Your Paid, Owned, Earned Media Together

Now’s when you get the payoff. You’re using all three types of media to reach prospects at all stages of the funnel, and you’re reaching your prospects across multiple channels with the same message, so you’re getting reinforcement. It takes anyplace from 5 to 15 (or more) touches before a customer takes a positive action; people need to get who your brand is and what your value proposition is across all channels…and it needs to be consistent. If you have a long sales cycle, it needs to be persistent.

Mediaz trifecta

Integrating the three types of media lets you:

  • Develop and deploy unified and consistent messaging across all channels
  • Meet your customers wherever they are in the funnel, with the same messages
  • Reinforce your messaging so the effect is that your brand is prominent and powerful

Watch the webinar

The webinar uses a mock case study to illustrate how to tie the media together, and shares ideas about how to leverage a master campaign calendar to yield a content calendar and social calendar. To learn more, watch the on-demand webinar here: “3 Strategies for Driving Website Leads”.

Do you have another way to structure your content marketing strategy and investment? We’d love to hear about it.