Gini Dietrich

How Paid and Earned Media Should Work Together

By: Gini Dietrich | January 10, 2013 | 

Earlier this week, we talked about native advertising and I got everyone worked up into a tizzy. Most of the comments were centered around, “Facebook Promoted Posts suck.”

And they do.

Richard Edelman discussed why in, “Paid Media: A Change of Heart,” it isn’t working as well as users would like.

He says, “These deals are primarily being done by media buying firms directly with the client. The person within the client organization running these initiatives tends to be the CMO, not the chief communications officer. The result is that the work stream tends to be derivative of advertising in its classic form, not in its potential new iteration.”

Because of that, the ads that should be content are just ads in a new medium. That’s why we hate them and why they’re so jarring to our user experience.

Content as Ads. Ads as Content.

But native advertising is more than Facebook Promoted Posts and Sponsored Tweets. It’s a complete blur of the lines between advertising and PR. Ads become content and content become ads.

Think about Pinterest, as an example. All of those images you pin lead back to something you can buy, in most cases. You find a shirt you want, you pin it to your Clothes, Glorious Clothes! board and then, when you’re ready to buy, you click on the image and it takes you to a place where you can make the purchase.

That’s an ad. Native advertising at its finest. But it doesn’t feel like we’re being sold because it’s something we want, in a form that is appealing to us.

Change the Game

Edelman goes on to call for those of us in PR to change the game of how this works. And I agree. We are, after all, natural storytellers and we have a nose for news and what types of content people read and share.

But the examples he uses aren’t there yet.

For instance, they are working with the Associated Press to buy – and send – tweets on behalf of Samsung during the Consumer Electronics Show.

The idea is an interesting one: Work with the big guys to send tweets on behalf of an organization to its followers. But it doesn’t get us where we need to go.

Someone in the comments said, “Isn’t this just an advertorial in a new channel?”

Yes, it is.

Bigger than Sponsored Tweets

I will hand it to Edelman that they aren’t afraid to take some risk and try new things, even to make mistakes so big they are used as case studies on what not to do.

But they aren’t quite there yet with the paid and earned media blend. At least, not in this example.

It’s bigger than working with media outlets to sponsor tweets from their accounts.

While we still have to disclose the content is an ad (“sponsored by” or “presented by” are good terms to use), there are ways to make this all work so it’s all part of the user experience.

An Example

As much as I hate to use Mashable as an example (sorry, Howie!), they do a really nice job bringing all of this together in a way that continues to make them money.

If you read, “Why It’s Time to Get Excited About Digital Advertising,” they show you exactly how ads flow into their content.

With the exception of one little sentence that says, “Presented by Volvo,” you can’t tell the story is an ad.

This is where things are going. All of our disciplines are blurring. Go make friends with people who do advertising for your company or work with your clients. Make friends with those in the marketing department.

Figure out how you can all work together. Because this? This is the future of PR.

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • In the Mashable article you cited there is the following sentence:
    ‘On average, we’ve found that our readers actually spend nearly 50% more time on articles created as part of a custom content program versus organic posts.’.
    Maybe my English is not good enough but I understand, that readers prefer the sposored post vs. the own posts.
    In my opinion its all about quality: If you bring in the right quality the customer likes it. And this refers to all: paid, owned, social and earned content. If you content lacks on quality, you will have no response.
    I reeive a lot from so called pr agencies which wanted me to bring their stories in my blog. Most of it is bullshit.
    So in my opinion: The future of PR (and of Marketing in general) is quality.
    Kind regards from Germany

    • belllindsay

      @HLeichsenring  “In my opinion its all about quality: If you bring in the right quality the customer likes it. And this refers to all: paid, owned, social and earned content. If you content lacks on quality, you will have no response.” AMEN!!!

    • @HLeichsenring Pretty incredible, isn’t it? It’s all about quality and understanding what your customer wants. Putting a Promoted Post in front of fans on Facebook doesn’t help them engage with you. If anything, it scares them away. Doing it in a way that is valuable and interesting works.

    • @HLeichsenring Thank you Hansjörg!  Truly a great point.
      Now we get back to bickering amongst ourselves about which of our ideas has the most quality! 🙂

      • @barrettrossie
         In the end, the customer takes that decission

  • maryanneconlin

    Nice post, Gini,
    To expand on one point – in the case of Sponsored Tweets, which I place fairly often for clients, the point is NOT to create an ad or advertorial, but rather to “publicize” previous content that has been effective.  Though there is an option to create original tweets, publicizing your best tweets, shown by Twitter’s analytics was the original concept.
    I think sponsored content of all sorts- blog posts, sponsored tweets and Facebook posts…along with the reemphasis on product placement and advertorials has definitely muddied the waters, but the role of the storyteller is, more threatened by robo writing driven by analytics than by redefining advertising.

    • @maryanneconlin To be clear: I only think the example of the sponsored tweet I used in the blog post is a glorified advertorial. I have seen them done well and, to @HLeichsenring point, if it’s quality, people won’t mind that it’s sponsored.

  • There was a nice discussion of this on @mitchjoel last podcast. He cited a nice example that I think The Atlantic did with BMW? The specifics are failing me. Native done right is tremendously exciting and I love the Pinterest example. FB just leaves a bad taste in your mouth (from a user persective) about this (and well about a lot of things, but I digress)…hopefully their bad model won’t spoil  the concept AND I don’t think it will.

    • @katskrieger  The problem with Facebook is they haven’t figured out yet if we’re the user or the product. Either we’re the user and we have to pay for it or we’re the product and we continue to get it for free, giving them content from a billion people, which they can then turn around and sell. Their Promoted Posts is a great example of this. The “install now” posts are driving me absolutely batty.
      Also. HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!

      • @ginidietrich thank you! An yes, the install now ones are so irritating. On chrome, I filter out the promoted sales posts. They egger replaced with elephant pictures. 🙂

  • belllindsay

    Ok, I might have this all wrong (and get fired again) but haven’t we been “selling” via content for a long time? Brands getting products into a movie or TV show springs to mind (you’re watching quality content, yet that can of coke looks sooooo good!). Or how about infomercials…? Branded, obviously selling, but they end being a half hour program on how to cook or clean better, with valuable examples and take away. Again with my mantra of “it’s evolution baby” – as our technology and platforms evolve, we find new names for the same old. Thoughts?

    • @belllindsay Lindsay, I was thinking the same thing on @ginidietrich post on native advertising: it’s an evolution in how we communicate and connect with our audiences/communities. And it’s based on the realities of what people need and want and prefer. These things change as their choices change.

      • @barrettrossie  @belllindsay Sure, I don’t disagree. Product placement, sponsored interviews on the radio, Oprah’s Book Club…it’s all evolving. The big difference I see is people want to use the traditional methods in the digital space and forget about the social (and amplification) aspect of it. So it becomes less about an ad and more about content the doesn’t disrupt the user experience.

        • belllindsay

          @ginidietrich  @barrettrossie Yes, true Gini. A more seamless way of highlighting a brand or product.

  • rdopping

    Hi. I sent this post on to our COO and local communications/creative services manager. Thanks.

    • @rdopping Hi. Is that good? Welcome.

      • rdopping

        @ginidietrich Very, very good. You never know, you might get invited to speak at DIALOG regarding the subject.  New website launch coming soon at too.

  • Without knowing nothing about nothing, I create my persona as native advertising content in a way.  In fact, the superhero outfit was the only content I had for the first 6 months of my social existence.  I never intended on becoming a personal brand, but it’s certainly helped as I venture into areas where I can actually monetize. 
    One way or the other, we’re gonna have to live with the future of PR and “sponsored ads” if we want to continue to use these services free of charge.  On a separate front, did you see my 2013 bold ass prepindiction, Gini?  Out of all the social channels, Pinterest is going to generate the highest revenue stream for me this year… and I haven’t used it in over 8 months (until this past week).  I even follow the Pinqueen herself (you).

  • I think @HLeichsenring nailed it in his observation about quality. Raising the question, at least in my mind, @ginidietrich ,why is it so hard for marketers and brands to create quality content?

    • @allenmireles  @HLeichsenring  @ginidietrich I’d argue that in many cases it’s because of a lack of integrity / passion within the brand. We’ve all seen supposedly boring companies do amazing things. Who would have thought that a shoe company (Zappos) and an airline (SWA) would have so much to say? They’ve got a lot of great content that expresses the heart/integrity of their company, which puts them hands above competitors.

    • @allenmireles  I’m with @JoeCardillo AND I think it’s because we’re SO used to doing it in the pushy way that it’s super hard to change. I always liken this to going to a networking event. You don’t meet someone and say, “Dude! Buy my product!” But, for some reason, we get to our desks and think that’s appropriate.

  • #1 Getting the Spin Sucks email delivered straight to my iPhone brings me great joy.
    #2 I love this whole concept! I think, if executed well,  it’s an opportunity for brands to be seen by consumers in a positive, creative, even thoughtful light vs. pushy/sales/non-applicable. 
    Bring it on!

    • @kateupdates #1 I so agree!  It’s “the beeest paaart of waaakin’ up … ” 
      #2 I share your enthusiasm … and I also think it’s a great opportunity to build and maintain a relationship of trust between customer and business, when well-executed.  The other day, discussion started about how trust may be a required condition for things like native advertising to work, and I think you just described how it can work as a means to the end of trust as well.

    • @kateupdates #1: Um, ok. LOL! #2: I really love it too (as you can tell). I can’t wait to test it out here!

  • Since I start-to-finish manage a new media product that combines earned and owned media, for once I’m actually qualified to comment! I almost don’t know what to do with myself…
    I’m still digesting the post on native advertising, but a couple of things this makes me think of:
    a) This shift, and what Mashable and others are working towards, really isn’t about advertising at all. It’s about content and conversations at the right time and place. I know that sounds like splitting hairs, but I wonder if we almost have to be willing to get rid of the word “advertising” completely. If it’s about content, then it also requires brand integrity (as you mention in your post on native adv.) and the desire for two-way (and more) conversations. No one talks back to ads (well, I do sometimes, but yelling at my TV or a website because I think an ad is stupid or inaccurate probably isn’t considered conversation).
    b) The data is Aliiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiivvvveee
    You can’t do any of this without solid, actionable data. Everyone here knows that because it’s probably how we all justify our jobs on a weekly, monthly, and yearly basis. But I think there’s also a real problem with the one-way street thing there too, and advertising could learn from PR. I’ll probably catch some flak for this but for me CTRs and whatnot, that stuff as currently practiced is still a poor way to generate sales/revenue/engagement in my mind even when segmented down (having said that I, like many people, am still beholden to that model). But if we’re going to do what Richard Edelman is suggesting, and what you’re suggesting Gini, we need a better way to understand user behaviors than “hey we showed them this and they clicked” or even “hey we mined their data and showed them some more specific things and here’s what they clicked on.” One very small (and still fairly crude) example of moving away from this is sites that have a series of buttons instead of just like, or thumbs up/down. E.g. the ones that say “This rocks!” or “More of this, please!” or “Take it or leave it.” That is a very basic example of data mining sentiment. We have to understand not only actions, but what truly motivates clients/customers/potential customers.
    This is all to support your main point and example of Pinterest. Those of us in PR/advertising/marketing/SEO are going to have to stop arguing with each other and learn that our job is to find ways to be there at the precise moment when people need us.

    • @JoeCardillo I think I just fell in love with you for this comment. And it made me laugh out loud. Three times. I also love your very last sentence. Yes. Exactly. Amen.

      • @ginidietrich   Shucks. =)
        What’s weird is that people still seem surprised about it. I know you do a lot of repeating yourselves at SS and it feels a little like preaching to the choir at times, but that doesn’t make y’all any less right about the shift that’s happening.

  • If I’m going to click on an ad, there has to be some good content associated with it. I really like how Buzzfeed does it. Great example here of something worth looking at, sponsored by Virgin Mobile:

    • @bradmarley That just made me choke on my sandwich!

  • HowieG

    HAHAHA! More peeved you used Edelman than Mashable @ginidietrich 
    I guess this really comes down to scale and need. A major brand:
    Needs to reach X number of people per day. This could be a million or 10 or 100 million.
    To use Facebook or Pinterest they can not do this. They can’t with social.
    I am all for doing all these things as part of a larger integrated marketing effort. If Social can increase your sales 0.5% a year why say no? If Nordstroms can sell 10 more $200 sweaters because they let their links get posted on Pinterest they should do it. The problem is the fractured marketing channels more than anything. Instead of focusing on 4 or 5 channels now you have to be in 100 or more just to be seen.
    I guess my beef with the Mashable article is my industry has been saying forever ‘If the ads were better we would love them’ but the fact is ads come last in what you want to do today. Shopping is pretty high but interacting with ads is above taking out the trash and below ear cleaning. and that will never change for 99% of brands and media channels. Right now I can go to any brand website I want and look at stuff…but I never do.

    • @HowieG It’s not just social, though. I can do it on Spin Sucks and the experience will be so good, no one will know we’re getting paid for the content. I’m going to do it! Finally a way to accept advertisers that doesn’t violate the integrity I’ve built here.

      • BretMavrich

        @ginidietrich  @HowieG Correct me if I’m wrong, but native advertising, though it has social components, goes way beyond “push” social marketing, and though it is sponsored,  passes the shibboleth-test for users who put it in the “content” category instead of “advertising” category. Yeah?

    • @HowieG @ginidietrich  Been rolling this around in my head….I think this is one of those things that seems to be common sense on the surface but isn’t.
      I’m sure big co. execs ask about reach all the time. For the longest time they shunned social media and the web in general, heck there are still major brands that are barely online. And you’re right they do think “oh, we might sell a couple more sweaters, but what effect will that have?”
      Well a couple more sweaters is all they’re going to sell if they’re not willing to collect/understand the data and then invest appropriately. PR/Marketing is not free. Advertising is not free. And neither is Social. (Journalism isn’t either, but that’s another story) When FB and Twitter became avenues for bigger brands even the largest ones threw one or two Comms people on it and complained that it “wasn’t really doing anything.” 
      Coca-Cola is one of the few big brands that seems to be taking it to heart, and if reach (often aka impressions) and CTs are a big deal, well they’re even doing ok there. Consider a tweet via their main account from a few hours ago…. “”Happiness is a journey, not a destination,” but a Coke and a smile sure will help you get there.”
      Not the most original tweet (or even that interesting IMHO), but 308 people RT’d it and 81 favorited it. I didn’t feel like crunching all the #s on a Friday, but the first 25 RT’ers averaged 200 followers (with one at 2,600) and combined with Coke’s 656,000 audience that one simple tweet already has a significant reach (and I’m not even counting visibility within Twitter search, and via Google and other SEs that index Twitter results). Add to that several tweets a day from various other accounts (e.g. @docpemberton) and they are already reaching millions per day just through Twitter.
      Point taken about being in a lot of channels though. That’s not easy. But neither is advertising. An ad budgets that achieves a .04 CTR is considered successful. And that’s only click-thrus, that is not directly product conversions / sales. I don’t think that ads are suddenly going to disappear, but they are going to change, and as relationships with customers and potential customers develop .04 might not cut it anymore.

  • Kristinesimpson

    I am about to jump to the corporate side and know that the disconnect between marketing and communications may arise. Hopefully the departments are already talking. But I look forward to talking to the marketers about native advertising.

    • @Kristinesimpson Maybe you’ll be the catalyst for getting them to talk to one another!

    • BretMavrich

      @Kristinesimpson I think what this article is saying is that there is far more than a conversation that needs to happen. Good luck to you, but I have a feeling that you may run into tons of people that need convincing.

  • ElissaFreeman

    This is an important shift in thinking. For years, many industry watchers have looked down upon the use of advertorial – as a way of co-opting ad space under the guise of editorial. However, I can tell you with confidence, that the average reader/consumer (not the people who comment here!) rarely see the difference – or quite frankly care. Good content is good content. If it’s ‘news you can use’  then why not co-opt the many platforms now available to us to generate more eyeballs. It’s a fabulous opportunity.

    • BretMavrich

      @ElissaFreeman You’ve articulated one of my least favorite parts of one of my favorite magazines: Outside. Every issue makes me wade through pages of advertorial that is disguised (sometimes cunningly) as material. But all of it is a bother, and when it “works,” I only feel duped and irritated (i.e. it never REALLY works).

  • Interesting conversation … I’m seeing everyone talking about Facebook and Twitter but what about Linkedin. EVERY week I get something from Linkedin offering me $50 for Linkedin ads. Is this the same thing and is there any data that these work?

  • BretMavrich

    I don’t have anything to say at this juncture besides the obvious: this is blowing my mind.
    I’m finishing up a Masters degree in New Media Journalism, and I am thrilled that now my skills at a journalist do more than simply overlap with the marketing and advertising worlds, or dovetail with a targeted click campaign; now, the content BECOMES the revenue stream.  Unbelievable.

  • this? this is a miracle. and i’m totally geeked out by this shift in perspective. finally! When I produced content in the corporate world, I’d have to explain the content to the marketing department. then when I worked on the marketing end – I’d try to get the marketing folks to understand content. it was quite a challenge to bring both worlds together. of course this was a few years ago – before it all started to come full circle. It’s not content VS. marketing. it’s content AND marketing paving the way. at least you get it, @ginidietrich! thanks for edumacating the masses.

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