Use this three-pronged promotional approach to support and amplify your content marketing programme. 

Bash out that final full stop, hit upload and breathe a sigh of relief: another slice of fresh content done and dusted.

But the hard work doesn’t stop at the wordsmith. The first phase of a piece of content may be complete, but there are still a fair few hoops to jump through until you can click complete on Basecamp. 

What’s the point in producing beautifully crafted content if no-one reads it? 

With 172,800 blogs added to the internet every day, there is fierce competition to get your brand’s content read, not to mentioned shared.

That’s why even the finest writer must pay homage to that powerful promotional triad: earned, owned and paid media

This trailblazing trio meshes a number of strong channels to create an all-encompassing strategy that even the lightest internet user would struggle to miss. 

But how best to make them work for you? Here’s my template for creating the promotional support that your content so desperately needs, to reach those all-important eyes.

Owned

When you use a channel you create and control.

Email newsletter

With 51% of marketers rating this as their most effective channel, ye olde email is far from dead in the water.

The question is, what makes the email newsletter so effective? The answer: an attractive subject line.

I don’t think I’m alone in saying that every day I get approximately 30 promotional emails flying into my inbox, with companies trying to out-do each other to get under my nose.

And every time, the witty, smart, attractive subject line wins. If it is clear, personal and attractive (or offering a free glass of prosecco), I’m clicking. 

Need a little subject line inspiration? Just take a look at The Middle Finger project, creators of genius email newsletters. Most recently, ‘Hey, Smart Ass’ popped into my inbox and it took less than a second for me to click on it. 

How could I not? The intriguing, cheeky header had my attention quicker than Usain Bolt crossing the 100m finish line.

And, of course, it was entirely consistent with their whole approach (just take a look at their website and you’ll find it’s packed with inappropriate jokes, sarcasm and completely un-PC commentary). It’s also pithy and to the point. No flowery flim-flam here.

Social media

No brand ignores an opportunity to reach billions of eyes (more than 1.7bn people use some form of social media), create rich customer experiences, increase brand recognition and boost inbound traffic.

But if you thought you knew how social fits into the brand landscape, think again. 

As you may have seen in the news recently, Nescafé has ditched its dot com in favour of a younger, sexier model - Tumblr.

The bold move from the coffee corporate has been made in order to hand over the brand reins to the customer, for Tumblr offers a platform that hosts both home-owned and user-generated content. It’s all about creating a two-way dialogue, inclusivity and human interaction. 

Conclusion

Owned media gives you the maximum control, at an efficient price. But it lacks credibility and takes a while to scale. 

Earned

Publicity won through promotional activities other than advertising. In other words, you don’t buy the space, you earn it. 

Outreach

A not-too-distant cousin of blogger relationship building, outreach is a hybrid SEO and PR exercise, focused on producing top quality content with embedded links and placing them in relevant online spaces.

Why? From an SEO point of view, Google is our master. And when Google says it will give a gold star (ie a better ranking) to websites which have plenty of quality sites linking back to it, you’ve got to do as you are told.

A quick look at analytics insider Alexa tells us just how well brands are playing at the outreach game. Continuing with the hair theme, hair straightener supremo GHD is smashing outreach - with more than 2,200 external links, from the likes of MSN, Amazon and Buzzfeed keeping its SEO status strong. 

Conclusion

Earned media is the most credible of the three. Customers can clearly see the value of your content and it’s evergreen. But you have no control over it - mentions could even be negative. 

Paid

When you pay to use a third party channel for your promotion 

Native advertising

Basically what we used to call advertorials, rejigged for the digital age.

Sponsored content appears on websites and audiences’ dashboards as though it’s an integral part of the site itself. 

Less ‘in your face’ as a garish banner ad, but it isn’t an entirely golden concept - it can send your brands’ bounce rate through the roof. 

Gordon’s Gin isn’t afraid to get stuck into this relatively new form of paid content marketing, creating fresh sponsored content that sits on the Femail pages of the Mail Online. Offering recipe ideas, the content is jam-packed with value for the reader, with minimal sales talk. 

Blogger relationship building

You should already have your target audience in mind. If you don’t, come back when every Tom, Dick and Harriet isn’t your focus.

One powerful way of reaching them, particularly if your target is under the age of 30, is to tap into the powerful blogger universe. 

Ten years ago, the concept of a professional blogger/vlogger would have had every brand manager guffawing, and then choking on their lattes if the blogger had the temerity to ask for £££ to promote a product. 

Nowadays, the Zoellas of the world have brands lining up at their doors, begging (and paying top dollar) to be featured on their outrageously successful YouTube channels. 

And it’s no surprise when you look at their incredible pulling power: Zoella has 8.8m YouTube subscribers alone, not to mention her astronomical following on Twitter (3.23m), Facebook (2.1m) and Instagram (4.4m). 

A dazzling creature that some don’t quite yet understand, the vlogger has the ability to craft content for a brand that will resonate deeply with their audience. Just watch as it causes a tremendous spike in referral traffic to your branded pages.

Take a peep at Unilever’s branded content platform All Things Hair, a YouTube channel dedicated to hair inspiration and style tips, and you’ll see what I mean.

Zoella and fellow YouTube star Tanya Burr front the campaign, creating videos that feature plenty of Unilever’s products, such as Toni & Guy, TRESemmé, VO5, Dove and Alberto Balsam, moulding and sculpting their powerful locks.

The proof is in the stats, naturally, with 178,000 subscribers and 18m views to date. Quite the ROI. 

Social media

All the big dogs in the social media arena are now offering paid-for programmes, giving brands the opportunity to amplify their social content. 

The programmes offered to increase social followers, encourage click throughs and up engagement levels are proving successful. Given that they all have the flexibility to match any brands’ budget, it’s a promotional tool not to be cast aside.

American motorbike company Castrol Moto was on a mission to boost their engagement within the North American market and chose paid social as its weapon of choice. 

The targeted campaign ran across Facebook, with ads and promoted posts whittled down and targeted by region age and interests. Cue explosive success.

After just one year of running the paid programme, Castrol’s reach jumped from 2.7m to 14m, new fans grew from 5,000 to 36,000 and fans located in the USA reached the 50% mark, up from 20%. Those stats don’t lie.

Conclusion

Gives brilliant scale and control, but lacks credibility.

Of course, offering examples of each type only gives you a third of the picture. What makes the triumvirate of earned, owned and paid media so powerful is when they’re all used together, as part of a strategy.

As we’ve seen, each brings benefits and drawbacks. It’s the combination of the three that will get your content noticed, shared and loved.

Work out your over-arching aim (followers? shares? likes?) and sculpt a three-legged strategy tailor-made for your campaign.

Rebecca Baines

Published 23 September, 2015 by Rebecca Baines

Rebecca Baines is senior content writer at Stickyeyes and a contributor to Econsultancy.

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Comments (4)

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Jeffrey Sterling, Freelance writer at Education Copywriting

172,000 blogs is my new favorite stat. Great work on the post and laying out all the options.

almost 3 years ago

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Gary Lillistone, Client Services at New World PR

Rebecca, congratulations. A very good read and one of the most insightful posts I have seen a long time. I will share as I believe a lot more people in the digital content business should see this. Gary L

almost 3 years ago

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Michael Milne, Digital Strategist at Elastic CreativeSmall Business

I'd say that social media has elements of owned, earned and also bought...

almost 3 years ago

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Victoria van Wyk, Digital Marketing at Student

Thank you for an insightful post. Using all three medias in a content marketing strategy makes sense, the days of just having a website, blog or Facebook page with zero interactivity and no paid advertising to reach new readers in your target market, is over.

6 months ago

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