It used to be that marketing and public relations had distinctly different functions and outcomes. It was easy for consumers to distinguish a marketing campaign from a public relations effort, and vice versa. Not so much anymore.

The lines are so blurred that we have begun reframing the way we talk about all facets of strategic communication—which includes marketing, public relations, and creative strategy.

It has become more efficient to talk about the various categories of media along with their functions and integrations.

There are three media function buckets: paid media, owned media, and earned media. Most effective communication strategies will map all three categories to an overarching strategic communication objective. Each bucket speaks to very distinctive audiences which, we identify as free-agents, friendlies, and fans.


Paid media is a more traditional advertising model, as it requires payment in exchange for promotion. Whether your promotion will appear on a social channel, as a commercial ad, or a print advertisement, paid media broadens awareness and makes an introduction with the free-agent pool.

The objective of paid media is to move consumers to change a behavior or make a buying decision.

With the growth of influencer marketing, it can be challenging to distinguish between unbiased reviews and paid promotion by a thought leader.


Owned media is the content that is entirely under a company’s control, from their online footprint to digital distributions, to social channels. This is how your company talks to stakeholders, customers, or patients in the healthcare industry. It’s content that’s designed by you with your messaging and intent. You post it and distribute it as you see fit to communicate with your friendlies.


Earned media is the content created and distributed by your company, earning the engagement of your fans in the form of reposts, shares, and mentions. Essentially, this is when your customers, business network, or media contacts become your extend distribution channels. It’s about creating a buzz, going viral, or spreading the news by word of mouth. With engaging and innovative content, this is one of the most effective and budget-conscious avenues for promotion.

Creating content worthy of buzz is hard work but it is sweat equity that will pay off.

No single category will hit every mark, so consider beginning with an integrated marketing communications plan and an overarching objective. Then, mix and match the services and channels that will get you closer to your objectives.

If you have an idea but need some help mapping it out, contact us.

We’re glad to help.

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