Traditionally, there has been a flawed “church and state” separation between earned and paid media teams at PR agencies. Paid media strategy is often an afterthought (if that component exists at all), and this oversight has become a considerable missed opportunity. As PR teams invest in developing a brand’s content, leveraging paid placements that align with earned media efforts is a chance to both maximize value to clients and increase the bottom line.
Here are five major benefits of integrating earned and paid media into a cohesive brand storytelling strategy:
No matter how positive the coverage, there will always be a few flaws that taint even a glowing story in the eyes of the brand: the messaging is slightly off-brand, competitors are included in the narrative, or a few critical inaccuracies dilute the takeaway.
While earned coverage remains a critical component, pairing it with paid content formats allows PR agencies to fully control the brand narrative. Formats like Nativo’s Native Article, which mirrors organic publisher content in both format and user experience, enables PR teams to tell the exact right story at the right time across premium publishers. Sponsored content mirrors many of earned media’s benefits while bypassing editorial negotiations and risk of off-brand messaging. Deployed smartly, paid editorial can be the perfect complement to earned coverage in delivering a well-rounded message that touches on key aspects of the client’s larger narrative.
While we intuitively recognize the value of earned coverage from a respected source, the Return On Investment is notoriously difficult to assess. Beyond simple measures like page views or monthly visits, it is nearly impossible to connect earned media exposure to action, making it difficult for PR agencies to quantify their value to the brand and make the case for increased investment.
Paid placements balance the qualitative value of earned media with hard engagement and conversion metrics that measure action resulting from brand content exposure. This data proves out return-on-content and helps make a business case for further investment in PR efforts. Unlike earned pieces that are final once published, paid placement also offers a unique chance to improve upon that initial ROI. If audiences don’t engage as expected, agencies can fine tune the messaging in real time to boost reader attention and deliver against client goals.
An earned media hit is impactful but fleeting, living at the top of the publisher feed for a brief moment before it is buried by an influx of more recent news. Paid media campaigns are a chance for PR agencies to extend the lifespan of an earned piece and the value of time invested, maximizing reach and influence. Through paid placements, agencies can expand beyond one publication’s audience to deliver consistent engagement weeks after the content’s original release.
Armed with the best earned story, a PR team still has limited control over the context in which it runs. This uncertainty can be balanced with a thoughtful paid strategy that allows for control over when and where the content is distributed, allowing adaptation to the current environment and timely response to industry coverage.
With flexible self-service solutions that enable rapid testing and learning, agencies can adjust messaging, shift budget allocations, and take down content at a moment’s notice, minimizing risk and freeing brands from the unpredictable news cycle.
While big-brand stories are in demand by top-tier publishers, PR agencies with regional and niche accounts know it’s not always possible to deliver on clients’ dreams of prominent sites with national audiences. These brands stand to benefit from the brand equity and unique audiences of publications they would not otherwise land via traditional earned outreach. Combined with earned placements, paid media gives PR agencies the ability to offer well-rounded exposure and high-value placement for niche brands.
For PR agencies that have mastered the art of storytelling, an aligned earned and paid media strategy is the critical next step in evolution, adding measurement, control, and longevity to messaging. Alone, earned and paid media uniquely contribute to building the brand narrative; together, they’re an unbeatable driver of business results for PR agencies and their clients alike.
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