How to Find the Right Balance Between Paid and Earned Media

NYC's OpenWeb shares its marketing strategy secrets.
Written by Erik Fassnacht
May 10, 2021Updated: May 10, 2021

In 2019, Adobe partnered with Pantone and The Ocean Agency to create a series of “glowing” colors reminiscent of endangered coral reefs. The paid media campaign on Twitter was a great success — liked and retweeted many times — thanks to its arresting visuals and its effective message about climate change.

As eMarketer reports that North Americans spent over two hours a day on social media alone in 2020, paid media campaigns with quality visuals, social and emotional significance or engaging content can be well worth the investment, particularly as marketing teams are in total control of both message and reach.

Despite these implications, earned media continues to be of utmost importance for establishing credibility. Nielsen reports that 83 percent of consumers trust digital word-of-mouth more than content created by advertisers, and press articles that link back to the company are a big boost for SEO. 

So, how should a marketing campaign balance paid and earned media? We sat down with Mitch Hansen of OpenWeb to discuss how both types of media can work together to take every company to greater heights.


Mitch Hansen
Marketing Director

Mitch Hansen is marketing director of OpenWeb, a social engagement platform that builds online communities around digital content. He believes that with the right tools, frequent analysis and a cohesive, mutually supportive balance of paid and earned media, progressively greater outcomes are possible.


Earned vs. paid media: Where do you invest more of your time, budget and attention, and what do those campaigns look like?

OpenWeb’s mission is to save online conversations by creating decentralized, healthy social media that empowers publishers, communities and advertisers. Marketing supports this mission by creating greater recognition and influence among a diverse set of audiences. With those audiences in mind, we invest above all in consistently creating high-quality content that provides real value to them. Providing that value is at the heart of all the relationships we set out to create through marketing.

While there isn’t really a standard formula for our marketing campaigns, we employ both paid and earned media channels all across the journey from prospect to partner. Marketing is one team among several working to make OpenWeb’s vision a reality, and we have seen the greatest results through a truly cross-functional approach to campaigns.


What tools or data helped you shape this approach and determine where your time and money was best spent?

We use tools from Google Analytics to RollWorks, HubSpot to Sprout Social, and more for content management and performance measurement. With these tools, we’re always in the process of experimenting, discovering, challenging and rediscovering our best practices. Staying nimble, we keep our eyes on a campaign’s desired key indicators — whether that’s lead generation, clickthrough or shares, for instance — and change approach whenever needed to best influence those indicators. This applies to content creation, earned and paid media alike.


It is through frequent analysis and iteration, as well as a focus on providing true value to our audiences, that we are able to consistently improve on our efforts.


How do you make earned and paid media work together to take your campaigns to even greater heights?

Generally speaking, our paid media provides an evergreen surround sound to our most valuable audiences, while our earned media invites deeper engagement to a wider set of audiences further along in the journey. Measuring the net effect of our marketing — whether our efforts are harmonizing across channels — can be found across a few big indicators, like reach, demand generation and engagement. It is through frequent analysis and iteration, as well as a focus on providing true value to our audiences, that we are able to consistently improve on our efforts and achieve progressively greater outcomes.


Jobs at OpenWeb

NYC startup guides

Best Companies to Work for in NYC
Coolest Tech Offices in NYC
Best Benefits at NYC Tech Companies
Women in NYC Tech