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Richard Edelman produced a very thoughtful post on the relationship between paid media and the practice of public relations. I recommend that you have a read of his post and have provided a link at the bottom.
I personally thought that it was the wrong question for a number of reasons, in no particular order:
- Public relations in its definition and history did not preclude the use of paid media. If you look at the definitions of public relations they talk about influence, relationships with different audiences, dialogue but not whether it includes paid for, earned, shared or owned media
- Paid media has long been in the PR practitioner’s tool box. Back when I was in-house I used advertorials as a way of securing coverage in general consumer publications. I am sure that I was not the only client to do this as the advertising sales people that I engaged with seemed to well versed in PR. Editorial competitions; long a staple of PR campaigns put prizes instead of cash to be handed over, but still a payment occurs. When one thinks about online platforms, be they YouTube, Facebook or Weibo – a similar blended approach now makes more sense
- Understanding all aspects of the media mix; gives PR a bigger tool box to use when building trust and reputation
- PR when used in marketing works best as part of an integrated marketing campaign. Where that marketing campaign comes from depends on who is paying and who is most trusted to deliver it
- The structure of services like Facebook makes owned and earned media ineffective without some sort of advertising spend being used, for instance sponsored stories
- The value of editorial is a canon of faith. There is academic research to say that editorial is more credible than advertising, but it depends on a number of contextual factors. The failure of AVE is that it doesn’t effectively prove the return on investment of public relations and no one has done the econometric heavy lifting and published the research about it yet
- The value of public relations – Ironically, it is most likely to be media buying or advertising agencies who are in the best position to join the dots because of the costs involved in doing the necessary research
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