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B2B Roundtable: Earned Media vs. Paid Media

Feb 01, 2022 11:51AM ● By Linda Persigehl
headshots of women in business

Photos Contributed

 What’s the best way to get a company’s message out to the public? This month, B2B asked two marketing professionals—Kelly Bast, an account manager at Emspace + Lovgren; and Cheri Dickmeyer, owner of CR Marketing Solutions—to share their perspectives. Leslie Andersen, CEO at i3 Bank, was asked to relate how her organization used different media for their recent rebranding campaign.

B2B: Who is the decision-maker that should determine a company’s marketing strategy? Should that person be in-house or with an outside marketing firm?

KB: Emspace + Lovgren determines the direction and weight of earned and paid media as part of the strategy around each particular audience and outcome. The account executive and the brand strategist have the most in-depth knowledge of the client, their goals, and resources. Maximizing the impact is more often a decision of how to use a combination of communications channels that are most effective, rather than simply paid
 versus earned.

CD: If you’re starting a small or medium-sized business, you should focus on what you do best, and in many cases, marketing is not a business owner’s expertise. It’s better to utilize the services of an outside firm to decide your marketing strategy…Once a company has established a strong brand with effective and measurable campaigns, and it’s bringing in enough capital, I suggest developing an in-house marketing team that can duplicate the agency model. An in-house team will be more connected to the company’s philosophy and will have a deeper understanding of brand, culture, product, and internal processes. 

LA: Last summer we rebranded our companies. After 93 years we changed our name from Bank of Bennington and Prime Insurance to i3 Bank and i3 Insurance to position ourselves for growth and focus on our core values of impact, integrity, and innovation [the three Is]. We had an internal team managing everything behind the scenes with our name change, and we worked with an external agency, Smith Kroger, to create our new brand and market our new name. Our biggest challenge was how to get the new name in front of potential new customers in each of our markets. 

B2B: What criteria go into deciding to pursue earned media, paid media, or a mix of both? What are the advantages of each?

KB: Our first criteria centers on the client’s goals. Then, utilizing research on the intended audience, we determine which media will best reach that audience, which media will be able to convey the message the most effectively, and what works with their budget…Paid media allows the client to control the content, tone, and timing, with programming selected to reach a targeted audience through the most cost effective medium for the client. Earned media has the ability to build a story with independent credibility, communicate more in-depth aspects of an issue, event, idea, or circumstance. It has a higher value because it is part of a larger community conversation. Social media has the advantage of building deeper connections with an organization’s existing target audiences and fostering new ones, which has the potential to result in significant impact for a relatively
small budget. 

CD: A successful media strategy involves three kinds of media: paid, owned, and earned. A small business with a limited budget and small staff should start with owned media. Owned media gives small businesses an affordable platform to showcase products and services. You can open a Facebook or Instagram page for free, or buy and host a website for a relatively low cost. Once a business builds a brand online, they can start working on earned media. Earned media is your likes and shares and based on word of mouth. Consumers see earned media as more authentic, but it requires responses to reviews and comments, as well as fresh content posted consistently. 

LA: We love opportunities for free publicity because it allows us to tell our story in a variety of ways depending on the platform and the topic. We like to share pictures from events that we participate in to provide a personal connection with the communities we serve. Using our agency, we’re able to maximize their research, marketing data, and technology to better target our customers. Combining our approaches has given us more flexibility and helped us diversify the message we use to reach our customers.

This article originally appeared in the February/March 2022  issue of B2B Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.  

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