Owned, Earned, Paid: Nailing Your Marketing Mix

Where should nonprofits start with their marketing campaigns?

There are lots of important questions to consider – audiences, goals, internal capacity to deliver, etc. Here’s one model to keep in mind while tackling those big questions:

Whether you’re thinking about marketing for a specific fundraising campaign or just running the ongoing marketing communications for your organization, it’s helpful to divide your marketing mix into three big buckets: owned, earned, and paid media. From there, you can identify where you see the most potential for your campaign, and can allocate your resources to match.

So how should you think about each of these buckets of marketing opportunity? Here’s a quick primer:

Owned media is all your channels: website, social media, email. It’s the place where you have the greatest control and speak to the people closest to your cause.

  • The opportunity with owned media is to more deeply engage those that are already connected. How can you keep them excited and inspired? How can you demonstrate how your mission ties into their lives, and how their involvement makes a difference?
  • The challenge with owned media is reach and, potentially, oversaturation if you’re delivering the same content to the same people, over and over. That’s where tapping into earned media and paid media can help bring new audiences into the fold.

Earned media is all the good stuff that folks share about your organization and your cause just because it makes for a great story and enticing content. When a blogger picks up your story for their Medium account, that’s earned media.

  • The opportunity with earned media is that yummy network effect. No content that goes viral does so without some earned media attention.
  • The challenge is unpredictability, lack of quality control, and losing control of your messaging. Now, no organization really has control over what others think and say about them, but that’s especially true when it comes to earned media. And that’s (very often) a good thing! It’s important to realize that the appeal of these forums is allowing those creators to share your mission in their own voice, and then continue the conversation.

Paid media is precisely what it sounds like – advertising, boosted posts, etc. It’s exchanging dollars for visibility.

  • The opportunity with paid media is the potential exposure to new and current audiences. Paid media can extend your reach where organic content sharing just doesn’t cut it.
  • The challenge with paid media is, well, that it’s paid. And it takes testing. Additionally, advertising dollars are often used to prop up poorly performing content, which is not a helpful strategy. Instead, direct your advertising dollars to give a boost to content and messaging that’s already showing signs of success and just needs a little extra juice.

What your marketing mix looks like depends greatly on your goals for your campaign. But starting with this overview of your options and the challenges and opportunities inherent in each always helps position your next campaign for success.

Ready to get started? Contact a fundraising specialist today!