There are two types of branded content in this World; Paid and Earned.
Earned media refers to the process of garnering publicity through media, blogger and influencer relations. Out of necessity it has high quality content at its heart, and has somewhat short-sightedly become the de facto model used by PR professionals because of that. But contrary to belief, PR is not synonymous with earned media.
Public relations is defined by the Chartered Institute as the “discipline which looks after reputation, with the aim of earning understanding and support and influencing opinion and behaviour.” At no point is PR defined in terms of paid, owned or earned media. In fact, industry leaders are increasingly embracing the full PESO Model, but I’ll come on to that later. First, the paid media revolution.
Paid media is an effective means of creating brand awareness or new customer acquisition through traditional advertising, paid search, social marketing and, most recently, through content. Blogs, infographics, videos and news releases have all become wrapped up as part of the ‘paid’ arsenal as native threatens to displace display in the digital ad industry. Liberated from its conventional confines paid has found its mojo, and marketers are leading the pursuit.
The evolution has largely come about thanks to a change in media consumption habits. We know that media consumers can handle the deluge of content on the web, but what they don’t want is to consume content that is so heavily branded and full of advertising messages that it is clearly being pushed to them by an advertiser. Josh Black, CEO of GroupM Content Asia Pacific, says increasingly “the very best forms of content created by advertisers are truly becoming ‘content’ – pieces of work that consumers want to share with the friends, tweet about and like”.
“The expectations on quality are rising. The stories being told are well constructed, interesting and shot beautifully. The content these advertisers are creating and distributing are no longer pieces of ‘branded content’, they are just ‘content’. Audiences, consciously or otherwise, are not using or associating the word ‘branded’ with them.”
So does that make branded content obsolete, or just reimagined? I’d err to the latter, but what is for sure is that paid media has become a big player in the PR industry. And it doesn’t stop there. Shared and owned media are both increasingly prevalent and important media types. Combine all four, and you get the complete digital marketing strategy.
The PESO model (Paid, Earned, Social and Owned) is what the future looks like for PR professionals. Gini Dietrich, a leading voice for the PR industry and author of Spin Sucks, told Mashable that there “is a misguided perception in the PR industry that all we do is media relations. Get your boss or client on the front page of the New York Times and all of your troubles will vanish”. The current measurement of success is still stuck in the Dark Ages. We use impressions and advertising equivalences. But they will soon be irrelevant.
“If you aren’t using the PESO model for your communications work, and measuring the meaningful metrics that help an organization grow, you will not have a job in 10 years,” Dietrich says. The days when earned reigned supreme are gone. Future campaigns require an omni-approach.