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Your Guide to Owned Media

December 11, 2023

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Written by
Callie Hitchcock

owned media laptop screen with website

Who are you? Scratch that. What story does the internet tell us about you? If I were to Google your name, what would I find? For many, it would be a few references from a company website, a couple of social media profiles, and/or a bio from a local civic or philanthropic organization.

When you search for yourself online — what do you find? Our digital presence gives others the stepping stones or “chapters” that compile the online story of ourselves. What is your digital presence saying about you?

To manage the story that’s being told, most top brands and individuals are continuously engaging 3 types of media: owned, earned, and rented. On this page, we delve into what is “owned media,” its various stages, and how you can use it to your advantage.

Owned media is anything you “own,” like:

  • Website(s)
    • And corresponding SEO (search engine optimization)
  • Written content
    • Blogs and articles
    • Case studies
    • Reports
    • White papers
  • Audio and video content
    • Webinars
    • Speaking engagements
    • Podcasts
  • Testimonials
  • Email copy and creatives
  • Assets
    • High-quality photography, videography
    • Logos
    • Brand guidelines

These things typically depend on circulation in the form of third-party platforms. That could be hosting platforms for websites, CRMs for emails, and various pages where content is stored and shared. But, ultimately, you own the copy, creatives, contacts, and your personal assets.

You may be thinking, well, those all sound great, but why do I need any of them? The simple answer is you don’t.

Well, you don’t if you’re not concerned with:

  • Growing your roster of customers and clients
  • Iincreasing your bottom line
  • Building customer trust and loyalty
  • Engaging your target audience
  • Sharing thought leadership
  • Being established as an expert in your field/industry

In all reality, having a mature owned media strategy and putting it into practice is crucial for the future health of your business and your personal brand.

1. The Owned Media Maturity Model

At Advantage Media, we categorize digital presence into five different levels of maturity. This is important to assess, and you should know where you stand and what progress still needs to be made in order to optimize your marketing efforts and your business’ exposure.

Stage 1: Emerging Authority

Think of this as the most basic level of owned media elements. You likely have a company website but no personal brand presence.

You may have some published content, but it mostly exists as ad hoc contributions with little to no strategy in place. There may be one of two additional owned media elements in place, but they aren’t being used and optimized often.

Stage 2: Tactical Authority

By this stage, you have a fundamental content strategy in place. You’re updating websites and publishing content mostly to remain active and updated rather than truly engaging your audience.
You may inadvertently place too much focus on pushing promotions that can deter your audience. You include little education and/or resources in your content. You may also not be engaging with your audience and putting much effort into online interactions.

Stage 3: Operational Authority

At this stage, a business/personal brand is becoming more defined. There is a documented owned media strategy and content calendar in place. Your content aligns with your brand messaging.

Your content is educational and evolves to meet the needs and user intent of your target audience. You’re engaging in responsive interactions with your audience.

Stage 4: Strategic Authority

This is a superior level of owned media where all of your owned channels are integrated. You’re also bridging your owned media efforts with other priorities, like rented and earned media.

You depend on utilizing audience insights and analytics to develop content and optimize engagement. You’re actively measuring, monitoring, and optimizing your owned media elements and their performance.

Stage 5: Differentiated Authority

This is the ultimate goal for most businesses and personal brands. At this stage, your owned media strategy and content are continuously improved and optimized based on data and testing. You anticipate the needs, requests, and trends of your target audience.

You are actively engaging your target audience through all of your owned media channels, and these efforts are having a noticeable positive impact on your business/brand.

2. Evolving Content Strategy To Optimize Owned Media

After assessing your current stage of owned media maturity, you may be wondering how to take it to the next level. We’ve got you covered!

Here are a few ideas to help you evolve your content strategy as a tool to grow your overall owned media presence.

Stage 1 → 2: At this stage, you may only have a business website. If you do have a personal brand website, then it may only contain basic information like your services and contact information. You should invest in creating a personal brand website where you can share more about yourself as a thought leader and business authority.Consider additional pages on your website, like an about page that focuses on you as an individual contributor, a blog page, a resources page, and/or an assessment that could be a good way to assess and engage your website visitors.

Another action item that I would be remiss not to mention is creating optimal assets to improve the quality of your website and other content efforts. Having a high-quality portfolio of various photos, videos, and personal brand elements (like logos and brand guidelines) can make a major difference in the quality of your marketing efforts.

✔ Measurement: Benchmarking current owned media maturity level, assessing digital opportunities, building out additional owned media channels

Stage 2 → 3: Expand the content you’re creating and sharing. After adding a blog page to your website, make sure you’re regularly updating the page with informative and engaging content.If you’re recording a video talking to your audience or hosting a podcast interview, make sure you’re incorporating the latest trends, relevant news, and topics into your conversations. This helps ensure that you’re not only up-to-date but, hopefully, a beacon of resources for your audience. To accomplish this, share updates and provide your insights on how to best utilize this new information.

✔ Measurement: Setting objectives and key results to define success, developing processes for continuous performance measurement and enhancement

Stage 3 → 4: You’ve reached the middle of the climb, and you may be feeling stuck at this point. Not to worry; there are more ways you can continue to grow from here. At this point, turn your attention to assessing your audience’s patterns, intent, and requests/searches.Your audience can often hold the key to where to steer your content direction next. After all, they are the ones that you want to engage, so consider what questions they are asking that you have the answers for. Then, turn those answers into content that is easily digestible and optimize it with SEO best practices to ensure it is able to be found and circulated online.For emails, you may want to consider utilizing more advanced audience segmentation to personalize your content. This can be a time-consuming process, but it can also be beneficial if you’re trying to share a very tailored type of content with a very narrowly defined audience.

✔ Measurement: Analyzing engagement metrics and making ongoing improvements, have both reactive and proactive content creation

Stage 4 → 5: You’re over the peak (but not done yet)! At this stage, you have multiple forms of media working together. Rented media can direct users to your owned media, and owned media can direct users to your earned media. It’s an ever-flowing feed of influence with your target audience.

Make sure that these channels all continue to work in harmony with one another and continuously represent the same united brand. Increase the amount of time spent utilizing user analytics, feedback, and interactions to shape your content and where it is shared.Don’t get too comfortable in the routine that you’ve built. Continue to look for new opportunities to share more about yourself and the value that you bring to any room you walk into via your digital content.

✔ Measurement: Testing content types, cadence, segmentation, platforms, and optimizing based on data and insights

Upholding Stage 5: You’re standing on the summit! You have a concrete content strategy in place, and it is starting to run like a well-oiled machine, but don’t neglect the maintenance! Remember, just because you’ve reached the top — the work doesn’t end there. Ensure you stay at the top by proactively incorporating more in-depth storytelling, curating exclusive content, and even taking your audience behind the scenes to see and understand the inner workings of your business, brand, and lifestyle. Share your knowledge, knowing that sharing doesn’t detract from your opportunities. If anything, it makes you a go-to authority on your topic because you are so open about the realities, your learnings, and the future of what’s to come.

3. Building and Maintaining Customer Trust

Consider these top methods for building your customer trust—and keeping it—to encourage future engagement and brand loyalty.

Develop Brand Transparency Through Authenticity and Values-Driven Messaging

One of the easiest ways to increase customer or client trust is to be more transparent and authentic in all of your content and communications. Depending on your services, some clients may not work with you on a personal level at all, while others could have weekly face time with you.
Regardless of whether your clients know you on a personal level, it’s important that your digital presence talks to them as if they are a valued connection. You should feel open enough to share the realities of your industry and be willing to tackle the hot-button topics that intersect with your professional life.

While some brands choose to sweep these issues under the rug and hope no one brings it up, I would encourage you to do the exact opposite. Own it. Talk about the things that matter and that people want to hear about. Tell them as if you’re talking to a trusted friend or colleague who prizes your insights and advice. More people will start turning to you as a resourceful beacon of honesty and information.

Secondly, many companies have a set of core values that they pride themselves on printing out and prominently displaying in their waiting areas or conference rooms. But are you actually living out these sacred values?

If so, how are you demonstrating them to your team? While many people searching for you online will never know what it is like working on your team, a happy and healthy internal team can often be the best-kept secret to authentically improving the reputation or presence you have online.

Don’t just talk about your values behind closed doors; embody them and share them openly with the world. When done well, people will begin to associate you with your values and hold you in higher regard because you are also holding yourself to higher standards and practicing what you preach.

Foster Brand Affinity Through Consistent, Informative, and Resourceful Content

A question we get asked frequently is, “How often should I be publishing new or updating existing content?” There are a few variables to consider when answering this question. Firstly, are you publishing quality content, or do you just feel the need to post something as you haven’t shared anything recently?

Cadence is important, so you should be striving to share new content regularly and consistently. You don’t want your audience wondering when they might hear from you again. This leads to users not feeling like they can depend on you to consistently show up and share information.

But… you also don’t want to be sharing content if the sole reason is that you haven’t shared anything lately. The quality of your content has to be informative and resourceful, or you will quickly turn off or disengage your audience. If you feel pressured to share something but are struggling with what to share, again, do a little research and see what your audience wants to learn more about.

Go into Google and start typing topics related to your specialties and see what auto-populates or what questions come up associated with that topic. Then, use that as a prompt to educate your audience and engage with them.

Encourage User Engagement and Reviews To Showcase Credibility

Popular brands like Apple, Chick-fil-A, and Disney have avid fanbases. These customers are so optimistic about and loyal to the brand they love that they end up becoming a highly valued part of the brand’s sales team.

At Advantage Media, we strive to give each of our clients “raving fans” service so that they are not only content with the service that has been provided but, rather, they are so pleased that they want to go out and recommend us to others.

If you’re building the right environment for your clients, consistently delivering on your services, and caring about people first (both internally and publicly), then you will be making the best decisions to ensure customer satisfaction. In the process, you’re also gaining a secret weapon in the form of satisfied customers who carry influence and can drive sales.

Promote Advocacy and Spotlights on Real Customers

If you have satisfied customers willing to sing your praises, then utilize them! A great way to turn a passive onlooker into an engaged customer is by sharing the difference you are making in the lives of others. It’s even better when users can hear it from the customers themselves. Take time to ask for feedback, reviews, and testimonials, and then use them to support your business.

Highlight positive results and outcomes from your work on different projects, cases, or campaigns. Show how that passive onlooker could have these same results if they would just follow whatever call-to-action you point them towards (schedule an appointment, pick up the phone, fill out a form, buy my book, etc).

Reviews and testimonials are some of the first places potential customers look to verify if you’re reputable and provide great service. Don’t overlook this opportunity to shape the narrative of your business and personal brand!

Prioritize Audience Needs, Tap Into User Passions and Pain Points

Make sure you’re prioritizing the needs of your audience through your content strategy. I’ve touched on it several times, but I can’t overly stress the importance of making sure that everything you do is methodical and has a purpose that drives you toward your overall goals.

One of those goals has to be engaging your audience. You know your target audience, but take time to dig below the surface. You should be well versed on what makes your audience tick, what motivates them, what scares them, and what they want most in life (and at this moment).

Knowing and truly understanding your audience will help you better engage them by sharing content that speaks directly to them, makes them feel seen and heard, and shares answers or resources that they find valuable. By becoming a resource for them, you’re becoming indispensable to them.

And even if they aren’t in need of your services right then and there, they will remember you and revisit your content when they are ready to take the next step in acquiring your services or purchasing your product(s).

Wrapping It Up

Regardless of where your owned media currently stands, it’s never too late to start curating or tactfully enhancing your online presence. You are likely already doing some amazing things offline, but if it’s not being published and circulated online, then your reach is likely limited to a very small network.

In the digital age that we live in, we are almost required to have a robust digital presence that includes multiple forms of owned media if we are to have any chance at maintaining and growing our relevance and success.

It’s time to take your dreams and turn them into goals. Brainstorm what business goals you have for yourself and your organization. Break these goals down into actionable steps and utilize our maturity model to help you assess the next steps necessary to take in order to reach your next benchmark. Many owned media elements are what we like to call ‘living, breathing things.’ What we mean by that is that they can (and should) change!

Is the person you were 10 years ago still the person you are today? For many, the answer is a resounding “No!” That’s why it’s crucial that our owned media elements and digital presence continue to evolve. Don’t create a personal brand website and then let it sit there, untouched, for years.

A poorly utilized and outdated site is, in some cases, worse than having no website at all. While a website is a necessary piece of real estate that you should own, make sure you’re not neglecting the other pieces of a puzzle that come together to create a great brand and content strategy.

If you’re a Facebook user, do you ever get a notification from Facebook saying, “Look what you posted 7 years ago today!” Sometimes, it might be a sweet throwback to a sentimental moment, and it reminds you of how much you or a loved one has grown or changed. Sometimes, it’s a bit more jarring, and we think to ourselves, ‘Man, I don’t need a reminder or that,’ ‘What was I thinking,’ or ‘Thank goodness that’s behind me.’

Think about these flashbacks in terms of your digital presence as well. While something may seem relevant at the moment, make sure you take a moment to evaluate the content to determine if it’s the best fit for the longevity of your brand. And, as always, don’t be afraid to pivot.

Who you are today doesn’t have to be who you are tomorrow. Personal and professional growth should always be goals no matter what stage your owned media is at in its maturity. Don’t forget that a key element in keeping your owned media up to snuff is to implement and regularly utilize data and analytics to optimize your owned media in the pursuit of continuing to engage and grow your audience.

Lastly, remember that (regardless of how tech or data savvy you are) you can be a monumental asset in ensuring your content strategy and owned media elements are the best they can be. After all, you are the expert in your area and have a wealth of knowledge and insights to share. Be vulnerable with your audience. Be transparent and share the hard truths that people need to hear and understand.

Being overly formal and hiding from tough topics does not build trust and customer loyalty. Being warm, open, knowledgeable, and generous are ways to easily build and maintain trust. If this sounds like a foreign concept to you, then I implore you to step outside of your comfort zone and try it out.

It may just make all the difference in bumping you up from one of the hundreds or even thousands of people with the same resume and portfolio to establishing you as the go-to authority on your subject matter, with people continuously turning to you for answers… and services.

callie-hitchcock-headshot

Callie Hitchcock

Director of Digital Strategy

Callie serves as our Director of Digital Strategy, helping our clients optimize their digital presence and performance through marketing best practices and strategic campaigns. She is a storyteller with a unique talent for connecting with people, ...

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