Owned Media, Earned Media, and Paid Media: Why All Are Essential to Your Financial Firm’s Digital Marketing Strategy


If you’re a financial services digital marketer, getting your brand front and center in the media is a key objective. Owned media, earned media, and paid media are all vital parts of this strategy, but how do they differ? Which one is best for you? And do you need them all?

These three media channels represent ways to gain exposure and get in front of your audience. All three strategies are valuable and viable, but each serves a different function and, as such, requires a unique approach.

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Most of the digital marketing we see falls into one of these three media categories. Financial marketers simply cannot rely on one channel to achieve their desired results. In developing a holistic media marketing strategy, you must leverage all three media types to maximize your efforts and ROI.

So, today we’re going to dive into owned, earned, and paid media channels to examine the features and benefits of each and how they all fit into your overall digital marketing strategy.

What is Owned Media?

Owned media covers a lot of ground. In basic terms, it can be described as anything 100% controlled by the business, including:

  • Your website
  • Social media pages
  • E-newsletters
  • Email marketing
  • Content marketing
  • Word-of-mouth marketing

We leverage owned media to boost SEO and organic traffic. It requires less direct investment, and it’s under your direct control as you’re publishing the content yourself.

The downside to owned media is that it is limited—meaning you’re only getting in front of your site visitors and email list. It also requires internal maintenance and time to devote to it. Your internal content marketing team will need to strategize, create, and publish the content.

Owned Media is the Final Destination

Ultimately, your owned channels are the destination for all your content. Paid and earned media will direct traffic to your website and social pages, so you can see how it plays into the bigger picture.

Optimization Strategy for Owned Media

Whatever method you use to get your intended audience to land on your owned properties, you’ll need to optimize the destination to maximize the results. Improving the user interface/user experience (UI/UX), creating landing pages to correspond with your publications, and generally ensuring that you’re offering some sort of value to the customer, as opposed to hard-selling.

Cost Concerns

As to the costs of owned media, you’ll need to think about what you need to do to achieve the best results. If you have an in-house design and content team, costs are minimized. On the other hand, if your website needs a redesign or if you work with an outside agency to manage your properties, those are costs you’ll need to factor in when measuring results and calculating ROI.

Measuring Results

Time-to-result can vary for owned media, but you’re playing the long game. Big changes usually give you an immediate spike, but results are incremental and gradual for things like building a social following. As with all marketing activities, it’s critical to measure. Track your analytics to see what’s working and what isn’t and to inform your strategy.

What is Earned Media?

Earned media is any mention in the press, online, television, radio—any brand mention that happens voluntarily; in other words, without you either orchestrating or paying for it. You don’t own it. It’s something that happens organically, usually because of an event, initiative, or newsworthy item.

Examples of earned media include:

  • Word-of-mouth shared by others
  • Public relations
  • Unpaid news features or mentions
  • Bloggers talking about your products or services
  • Ratings and reviews
  • Social media mentions
  • User-generated content
  • Influencer mentions
  • Unsolicited publicity of any kind

Because earned media does not originate with you and is unpaid, the public gives it a lot of credence. It expands your reach and might even help you identify “hidden” audience segments as people you have not considered may be encouraged to check you out.

On the downside, earned media isn’t always positive. There are plenty of examples of brands that have been on the receiving end of bad publicity. Cancel culture is a genuine concern in 2022, so it’s critical to understand the issues that will put you in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.

For financial firms, one of the worst reasons to land on the dark side of the spotlight is cybercrime. Trust is number one when choosing a financial services firm, and breaches can’t be sloughed off as the cost of doing business. Of course, there are plenty of other ways to attract bad press, but failing to protect your customers easily takes the top slot.

Cost Concerns

Earned media is usually free, although you should factor in the time it takes to manage and track ratings and reviews, social mentions, and so on. Establishing, owning, and managing your reviews platforms (Google, Facebook, Yelp, etc.), creating and sending out press releases, and the costs of content design are all considerations.


Much like owned media, you’ll need to invest some time and effort into setting up a platform for earned media to happen.

As to when you can expect to see results, that depends on the effort you put in, but again, it’s a long game. Putting time and effort into building up and maintaining your owned properties and content will support earned media. In the process, you can continue to promote your services to influencers or solicit user-generated content on your social sites to encourage engagement.

Measuring Results

When leveraging a digital marketing strategy that includes owned, earned, and paid media, it’s challenging to know exactly where your traffic and conversions are coming from. Usually, results are achieved from a combination of all three. Still, earned media has an intrinsic value that does not exist in other methods. The public trusts word-of-mouth and other earned media far more than they do paid or owned media, so it’s worthwhile to pursue any earned opportunities that come your way.

What is Paid Media?

Paid media is pretty straightforward—it’s any paid advertising or paid channel you use to promote your business:

  • Social media ads
  • Search engine ads (SEM/PPC)
  • Display advertising
  • Billboards
  • Print advertising
  • Commercials on TV or radio

The advantage of paid digital advertising is that it’s easy to target a highly specific audience and ensure your ad gets in front of your ideal customer. This strategy also enables more sophisticated digital marketing techniques such as retargeting and remarketing, enabling you to track your site visitors’ browsing behavior and further inform your strategy.

Cost Concerns

One of the most significant drawbacks to paid media is that it can be pretty expensive, especially at the outset. Search engine marketing, for example, forces you to compete with other financial firms for the exact keywords, and larger firms can easily outbid you for the top spots.

Strategy is critical to your ROI. You might achieve better results by focusing your keyword strategy on local business (if that’s relevant to your firm) rather than competing with the big brands. Working with an experienced search engine marketer is always a good idea as you’ll often decrease your time-to-result and lower advertising costs.


It can take a significant amount of time to set up your paid campaign. You’ll need to create content, optimize your landing pages, and design your ads accordingly.

However, once the campaign is set up and the ad is running, you’ll begin to see results immediately. This is one of the reasons paid media is great for new or emerging brands looking to build an audience. You’ll gain immediate visibility and start earning brand lift more quickly than you would with any other method.

Measuring Success

Tracking paid digital media results is incredibly easy. Ad platforms provide highly detailed dashboards that dive deep into your audience segment, keyword performance, and every other detail that matters. You have complete control over your campaigns and budgets, so calculating ROI is simple. You’ll know instantly whether your tactics are working and can adjust on the fly to improve as you go.

Final Thoughts

If you’re a financial services marketer, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all the inbound strategies available to you.

By partnering with a specialized Inbound Marketing Agency like Gate 39 Media, you’ll have a specialized technical team ready to support your efforts. We’ll work with your team to help you optimize, measure, report, and iterate on all three types of media—owned, earned, and paid—to ensure the best possible results.

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