The Three Types of Media

types of mediaIf you are involved in politics in any capacity – whether election campaigns, grassroots lobbying efforts, or just actively supporting the things that you believe in – you have a message to communicate.

So how will you do it?

There are three basic types of media for getting any political message out to the public: “social/digital media”, “earned media” and “paid media”. Social/digital media covers online bases like Facebook, Twitter, blogs/websites and viral email. Earned media means just that, you work for it. And paid media is what it sounds like, it costs money.

Which options you might use will have a lot to do with what you are trying to accomplish and what kind of resources you have available.

Social and Digital Media:

Social networks make it easier for a group or campaign to interact with people in the same way that they already interact with one another. They offer a means to not only communicate with supporters, but in a place where they can increase your exposure by “endorsing” you or promoting your content to others and expand your base.

It’s like “word of mouth” advertising for the digital age.

Finally, your profiles or pages on these services, along with any websites/blogs, online groups, email newsletters or downloadable resources that you might have, are known as “owned media”. Since they’re yours, they don’t cost you anything to use, and you don’t need anyone’s permission. It’s worth investing time in building these “owned” resources for current and future use.

Earned Media:

For every campaign earned media is critical. From press releases, op-ed columns, letters-to-the-editor, interviews, press conferences, events, speeches, forums/debates, etc., it all comes into play.

The simple fact is that, other than the work that you put into it, you can’t beat the price – free – which makes it that much MORE important for lower-level races that have few resources to begin with.

Of course the “free” part doesn’t mean that things just happen by themselves. Someone has to put in the time and effort. From writing letters-to-the-editor or guest editorials for the local paper, to arranging events (and encouraging media coverage), to doing media interviews (after someone invested time promoting them) to writing press releases calling attention to your cause…it’s all an investment.

The result can be good (cheap) coverage that you have some control over and that helps get your message out to a larger group of people.

Paid Media:

Paid media can be a powerful tool to get a message out. It can be used to drive a message home because it can be repeated, and it can help overcome low name recognition or negative publicity.

And because you pay for it, you control it.

It can be expensive but effective, and it comes in many forms: radio and television ads, direct mail, the Internet (web banners, rented email lists and paid social media ads), newspapers, magazines, billboards, signs and bumper stickers.

The “broadcast” variety is much more expensive and less targeted. But direct mail and email are more targeted and can be tailored to individuals or groups based on demographics, geography or issue concerns. In other words, they’re customizable, (if you have a database that helps you “know something” about the people that you want to communicate with).

Pretty much the same holds true for internet ad campaigns. Google’s Adwords and Facebook ads offer options that display your message only on targeted sites, targeted content, or sponsored posts that display only to targeted audiences that you choose.

In most lower-level campaigns, you shouldn’t focus so much on paid media that you ignore the other types. View it as an “accessory”, not a necessity.


Remember, these are just channels. Make sure that the message is effective before you invest time and money in communicating it.