My last few posts detail how the old approach to media outreach isn’t working with bloggers and how blogger relations takes more time compared to traditional media relations.
Add to this recent FTC Guidelines and anyone moving from pitching traditional media to building relationships with bloggers needs to revisit their plans.
One thing that hasn’t changed is client needs. They have to justify their marketing spend – even defend it when investing in social media. A 2.0 world of experimentation and soft metrics has given way to the need for scale and a better idea of expectations -- due in part to the economy.
Paid │ Earned
These factors are evolving my thinking of paid and earned media. As a quick refresher, let’s define terms. Paid media comes with guaranteed placement and total control of the message. Earned media does not pay for placement and, as a result, you don’t know the message until you see it online, in print or elsewhere.
Early in my career, I kept paid media and earned media as separate as church and state. This was in part a reflection of my passion for public relations. As various marketing disciplines were more siloed back then it was easy to do. As the integrated marketing campaigns I worked on grew in size and budget, I saw how much paid media and earned media need each other. In some instances one serves as ground cover for the other as part of the campaign strategy.
Viewing the paradox of blogger relations and client needs, I’ve wondered if there isn’t middle ground that would blend some benefits of paid and earned media without coming off looking like an advertorial, infomercial or worse.
According to Blackshaw,
“There is so much evidence across the web that "earned media" -- consumer-generated media, social media, conversation, variants of PR -- is creating meaningful lift and value for brands that we now need to think more critically about resource and spending allocations.
“Here is an attempt to acknowledge that paid media often serves as a critical stimulus or even vitamin for "earned media." Moreover, in a world of crowdsourcing and co-creation, "earned media" is increasingly becoming a core input into the paid equation. Yes, we must always accommodate that fuzzy middle.
Blackshaw created the above diagram as a possible model for paid, earned and blended media. There's potential in blended media that circumvents the old ways of doing things with this new audience.
Collaborating in the Middle
Let’s consider some completely fictitious scenarios as examples. Sharpie does an excellent job of marketing their products from Susan Wassel’s tireless efforts and showing up at Fashion Week to sponsoring NASCAR and encouraging artists to push the limits using their products.
So for their next product launch, instead of bombing bloggers with product samples, what if Sharpie teamed up with Hugh MacLeod and developed a cartoon generator widget?
Sharpie would fully disclose their involvement. It’s not an ad or a sponsorship, but the end result is more predictable than potential blog posts resulting from product mailings. The pitch becomes a collaboration where Hugh is the creative director, Sharpie is the sponsor and the end result is shared across the web.
Some would argue that collaboration is the ultimate connection with a specific audience online. This is just one example of how funding gets to the end result more quickly. But it’s done in an acceptable, fully-disclosed fashion.
In the Mix
Social media and blogger relations are still a nascent field. We’re applying a few years of experience against projects compared to entire careers in other marketing disciplines. But as we continue to build programs that do more than simply broadcast across social media platforms, I think we'll see more examples of blended media.