From desert island to party island! Content Marketing Channels

October 18, 2017

When all goes to plan, the main focus when planning new content marketing measures is always the quality of the content itself. As we hear time and time again, only the best content stands out. Really only the best content? Well, nowadays, that seems a little too straight forward. The positioning of your content must also be strategically planned. And without the right channels, even the best content won’t reach its target.

Content marketing is all about teamwork – and that applies to the channels on which you share your content too.

A classic mistake when planning a content marketing concept is only to only focus on your own website. But a blog is not a content marketing strategy, and it won’t reach the right users through the noise and the flood of information.

A company’s website should not be an island. Rather, it should be a well-connected archipelago of large and small landmasses, all of which have something to offer.

The magic trio: paid – owned – earned

Fundamentally, there are three online channels over which you can publish content: paid media, owned media and earned media. Owned media, channels you have created yourself, form the basis of your content marketing:

  • website
  • newsletter
  • online magazine
  • blog

Pros and cons of owned media

On your own channels, you retain 100% control over nature, quality and quantity of content. You can measure it using your own parameters and content need only adhere to applicable legal regulations. Otherwise, you’re the boss.

But don’t be fooled into thinking that owned media come for free. At the end of the day, you still need to consistently produce content for the channel and whether it is produced using internal or external resources, those resources cost money.

Of course, you can decide how expensive your channel becomes and owned media channels are generally cheaper. But it all depends on the quality of content you can produce.

The main drawback of owned media channels is that they suffer from lack of reach and reduced trust and authority. Of course, authority and trust can be earned over time and a valuable community can develop around the channel. A functioning SEO strategy is also key – but this can also entail costs. But it’s worth the investment if it means generating your own reach with a loyal readership and also manages to attract new, first-time visitors too.

Paid media: a necessary evil?

Paid media channels are external channels which you pay to publish your content. Two of the biggest are Google and Facebook. Here, the dollar, not content, is king and the more you pay, the bigger the reach. You still retain control over content, providing you stick to the terms and conditions, while paying your media partner to publish it.

Paid media channels guarantee short-term reach, but your content could suffer from a lack of believability. Ultimately, it’s just paid advertising with the content altered slightly.

Nevertheless, planning a content marketing campaign without a budget for external media partners is a naïve approach. At the very least, you should be throwing a few euros at sponsored Facebook posts, without which it’s difficult to achieve any great reach.

Earned media: the most noble of aims

Earned media is what every publisher should be aiming for, publications and reach generated solely through great content. Here, customers, press organs and other influencers become your media partners. Traditionally, this was usually the role of a PR department who had, and still have, the aim of ensuring positive reporting in independent media. This is certainly one of the reasons why content marketing is so closely linked to PR.

The biggest advantage of earned media is authority and trust. After all, it’s not your business or brand publishing its own content itself but external parties who haven’t been paid to do so and may not even have been asked. Think, for example, of popular blogs written by key influencers in a particular scene.

If your content can appear in earned media channels, users are more likely to trust it.

The ultimate positive for your content is when multiplicators become unofficial ambassadors for your brand, guaranteeing regular, influential exposure. But this can’t be achieved overnight – it has to be earned.

The one drawback however is that you lose control over your content when it is shared via earned media channels. Of course, you can retain a certain influence with good PR work but the contexts in which content is shared are largely out of your hands.

One network – three garments

Paid, owned and earned media channels are gradually merging into one – a development which requires a more critical look. Social content for example is difficult to distinguish from earned content – after all, everyone has the possibility to produce content and comments and shares from individuals need to be earned just as much as on online articles.

Another aspect to consider are the mixed channels. For instance, at first glance, it may seem logical to think that a Facebook fan page is an independent, internal channel.

After all, you are largely responsible for the appearance of content. But remember: Facebook could theoretically shut down your page at any time and all your fans would be gone. So this channel only belongs to a company to an extent; ultimate control lies with Facebook and other networks who are increasingly charging for reach.

Paid, owned and earned: Mix it, baby!

The focus in corporate communications was traditionally on owned media. But in the age of such a flood of information, the battle lines have been drawn around conversation – meaning that earned media is becoming much more important than classic internal channels. We also need to accept that genuinely high levels of reach cannot be attained without at least some sort of paid media.

In conclusion, the secret to a successful content marketing campaign is to combine paid, owned and earned media effectively. This means achieving the greatest reach possible with your available budget whilst also remaining as authentic, believable and trustworthy as possible – a fine balancing act.

Author Barbara Ward

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