I’ve seen several webinars and articles this week about the rise of earned media in the marketing mix.
35% of people online have installed ad blockers. They trust reviews and editorial content. (Forrester Research)
This is very good news for PR practitioners. But as more agencies not familiar with the ethos of media relations jump on this bandwagon there are some possibilities that concern me. I saw this in an ADWeek article:
- If you squint, it looks like you might have paid for editorial coverage, which can raise questions of what paid promotion promises were made to the outlet by the brand and how much it potentially influenced the outlet’s decision to provide coverage.
- It makes future media relations more than a little awkward. Who can or can’t expect similar treatment? How often is the question going to come up when publicity teams are pitching stories? Will there be negative repercussions when paid support isn’t offered?
Editorial coverage is supposed to be cleanly segregated from paid media. No editor I know would negotiate coverage based on promised paid amplification of the story. And I hope that no PR practitioner would offer that as an inducement to publish a story.
We absolutely should be amplifying earned media. It works well to put that trusted content in front of targeted audiences. And more people seeing the story is a win-win for the brand and the media outlet. But what we do with our earned media coverage should not play any part in the outlet’s decision to cover a story. You get the story first, then you amplify with paid. You don’t use paid as a hook to get the story.
If this is happening, then media relations will become more than awkward. It will eventually cease to exist. The public will soon realize that these stories are just thinly disguised paid content from the brand. And we know that’s not getting the same response as independent earned media does.
If earned media is something you’re just starting to use in your marketing mix, a word of advice: be very careful to keep your paid and earned in separate buckets. When you blur these lines you run the risk of killing the goose that’s lays the golden egg.