10 December 2020

Paid content’s evolving role in the PR tool kit

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Megan Greenmegan@nwkcom.co.nz

Initially, the idea of paying for media coverage seemed so incongruous that we looked at most examples with a professional side-eye.  How could bought coverage be as impactful as real PR? Was it worth it? Did audiences even buy it? (And how could we fit it in a PR budget? This isn’t advertising ya’know…

Fast forward to 2020 and paid content, in its many guises, has become a core revenue stream for media and a mainstay of many a PR plan. But those questions still remain. We’ve all seen the cringe-worthy examples, just as we’ve been engrossed by something only to reach the byline and realise it was ‘sponsored’.

So, what makes successful paid content? Having experienced the evolution of the model, here are a few of my thoughts …

Brief early and with purpose

This is a key first step. Briefs with too little direction or response time are asking to flop. A good PR will be able to strike the right balance between knowing exactly what you want the content to achieve, while giving the media partner sufficient creative space to stamp their mark and make it authentic for their audience.

Eyeballs vs hearts

By nature, paid content is rooted in media buying and advertising metrics which, from a booking perspective at least, is mostly about eyeballs (or ears as the case may be). But in our experience, paid content has to have heart to have impact – an angle that can stand on its own two feet. If it’s not carved out to connect with your audience in the same way they would with editorial, then it’s advertising.

You still need a great story

In this era of instant gratification (ok, click-bait), the competition for media space can be fierce, meaning that no matter how good a story you have, there can be limited opportunities to tell it. Paid content enables us to guarantee a good story will still see the light of day, but it still needs to be carefully crafted to resonate. PR’s role is to help draw out the best tales and talent, sourcing powerful images or video, for example, to create compelling content.  

The right mix 

Good PR, like good marketing and advertising, is tied to business objectives. Good paid content can feed back too – through audience insights, remarketing lists and so on. The sophistication of what is available is fast increasing, and working alongside marketing teams, we can help deliver a package that really returns.

Bringing it to life

Paying for content doesn’t make it easier than earned coverage – in fact, it can often be more involved. Having a PR team on hand to advocate authentically for your brand and manage the ins and outs of the negotiations and approvals can have a big impact on the final result. Having now worked on paid content with most of NZ’s major outlets, the Network team understands how to best ‘plug in’ for maximum impact and efficiency.

A friendly reminder - it doesn’t buy you friends

Paid content is business. It shouldn’t and won’t put you on a better footing with the same journalists when working in a reporting capacity. There is steadfast separation between paid and earned coverage and you will still be asked the hard or unwelcome questions when the time comes.