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Paid, Earned & Owned (PEO) Media: Orchestrating Opportunity

Thanks to my good friend Mike Azzara for the following guest post on a VERY important issue.

Suddenly, everybody wants to talk about paid, earned and owned media – PEO.

The reason PEO is so top of mind is that the roles of each media type, and their relationships to one another, are radically changing as we speak, and few brand marketers yet understand how it will all shake out. Meanwhile, a growing number of brand marketing thought leaders are suggesting that synchronized PEO media strategies are already mandatory.

Everyone understands the traditional PEO roles, but just to set the stage: paid is media you buy – you get total control over messaging, reach and frequency, as much as your budget allows; earned is what others say about your brand – you get no control but you can influence outcomes if you’re smart; and owned is content you create (content marketing) – you control the messaging, but not so much whether anyone reads/views it.

Today, however, earned and owned media are morphing due to social media and audiences’ increasing willingness to trust their own judgment about the validity of content rather than depend on the proxy of trust afforded by a media brand, such as The New York Times. And the changes in earned and owned are transforming paid media.

Consumers’ willingness to trust their own judgment about content has opened the door for many individuals and entities – including brands – to create content. If the content passes muster, it is consumed and acted upon. If it doesn’t, it isn’t. That means that content marketing delivered consistently to an audience can become a highly effective new media channel that a brand can own, outright.

At the same time, the rise of the social web has fostered a new, more powerful form of earned media. Social media enable messages both positive and negative to propagate through a brand’s social graph with great rapidity, yielding both positive and negative effects – all of which are visible and can be measured.

As a result, brands have begun investing heavily in social media presences aimed at maximizing value from earned media. Of note, a key approach to generating positive earned media in social channels is via high quality owned content, particularly content that is instructional, or otherwise actionable.

Finally, these revolutions in owned and earned media have had a transformative impact on paid media. According to a seminal, oft-linked blog post by Forrester Research analyst Sean Corcoran, paid media is shifting away from its role as the “foundation” of marketing programs and is “evolving into a catalyst that is needed at key periods to drive more engagement” with earned and owned media.

Given all this, it was no joke the other day when my buddy Ted Kohnen told me, “PEO is the new SEO.” Ted is VP, Integrated Marketing at the agency where I’m Chief Content Strategist, Stein + Partners Brand Activation (SPBA), and where we are always putting our heads together to nail the right PEO formula for our clients.

So we decided to write a white paper that draws on our own client experience to truly illuminate the new roles and relationships among paid, earned and owned media – and how to orchestrate them together for maximum effectiveness.

Our paper, Paid, Earned & Owned (PEO) Media: Orchestrating Opportunity, talks in more detail about the issues I’ve just touched on, and then details our own analysis of the last 50 million online ad impressions SPBA booked. For example, we look at the effect on paid-ad response when owned content was the primary call-to-action. Spoiler alert: response increased 35% over SPBA’s general ad response rate and was 99% higher than the applicable industry average!

Mike Azzara is a recovering veteran online media executive who is now a mercenary: he develops thought leadership content for any brand that needs it, primarily as Chief Content Strategist for Stein + Partners Brand Activation, New York. He can be reached at mike[at]