Sponsored. Underwritten. Paid. Native. Branded. All these words have one thing in common within the context of media - they suggest that a story, video or other piece of content was purchased. Paid content used to be the less credible cousin to earned content. On the public relations side, we've long viewed "earned" as PR's hallowed ground: media coverage, or any content produced independently, without money changing hands.
How things have changed. Sure, we still earn great coverage through traditional research, proof point development, pitching and good old-fashioned persistence in finding the right medium and journalist for the message. More and more often, though, paid elements are very much a part of successful PR campaigns, primarily to amplify reach and increase ROI.
This morning I saw another good example of this trend, this time courtesy of an Ad Age case study featuring a Quaker State oil line integration with TEN's Lowrider media brand. The campaign is enviable: hyper-targeted, creative, strategic and firing on all the cylinders with rich multi-media components, including a custom video series, product giveaways to community car club, social and a one-page profile piece in the print edition of the magazine.
Even more interesting to me were the closing comments in the article. According to the spokesperson quoted in the Ad Age article, the brand has "seen a big increase in earned media awareness. There have been a lot of interview opportunities for us as well. From a reputation and brand perspective, the earned media is phenomenal and begins to build the credibility piece for us. It helps us to appeal to a broader number of people."
Imagine that. Paid sparks earned. Amplification ensues. Awareness soars. Seriously though - the fact that media generated more media isn't news to anyone in the PR business. Once upon a time, morning show talent leafed through the New York dailies on air as a conversation starter. Today, well...I'll steer clear of how certain politicians are using platforms like Twitter to launch epic news cycles.
Long story short: today, it's the increasingly rare PR campaign that will rely exclusively on earned media. You're short-changing your ROI if you don't allocate budget to select paid tactics.