Steve Rubel, Chief content strategist, Edelman
Responsible for creating and cultivating content strategy best practices at the PR agency
For much of its 100-plus-year history, the PR profession has had only one kind of relationship with the news media.
This is based entirely on merit, rather than money, and it's grounded in editorial versus advertising.
However, that's now changing. Increasingly, PR pros are entering into a broader relationship with the news media. This comes in the form of sponsored content partnerships, which are rapidly becoming common as the press moves to embrace a new business model.
The media has long been equipped to handle this ethically. Those who are charged with managing the buying and selling of advertising (sponsored content and native ads included) are already separated from professional journalists. This ensures that the core product – journalism – remains pure.
However, this may not be the case in PR. As the industry races to embrace sponsored content, it may skip the costly step of creating proper boundaries and finding new talent. This could mean that a single PR pro may engage in different discussions: one on merit and another on money. This can't happen. No one benefits.
As PR enters into a broader relationship with media, we need to follow the latter's lead. Those who actively cultivate day-to-day editorial relationships in an effort to secure third-party earned coverage must not be engaged in paid negotiations with the news media for sponsored content – and vice versa.
Furthermore, we must eliminate the risk for quid pro quo discussions that intertwine that which is paid for and that which is earned. These need to be separate processes.
By setting up the proper structures, we will ensure our existing relationships with journalists and our new ones with ad sales will not compromised.
With the media already set up in such a manner, there's no reason why we shouldn't mirror their approach. This can help create an environment for PR pros to credibly manage a company's end-to-end relationship with publishers in a way that few actually do today. And that's great for the profession.
Megan King, EVP, consumer marketing and creative, Porter Novelli
Has two decades of experience developing and implementing marketing campaigns
Advertorial, brand integration, native advertising, call it what you will, but the idea of paying to place content has been around since the dawn of marketing.
With the digital world growing exponentially, the lines between those who have traditionally been charged with content creation – PR pros – and those who pay to place content – media buyers – are blurring. When executed with integrity, the convergence of creators and buyers benefits publishers, brands, and consumers.
The publisher's benefits are clear – extra revenue sources and new ways to attract brands. And, more diverse content attracts new viewers. Savvy publishers build their content pool with brands that are in context with their voice. They skip the sales messages in favor of content that draws consumers to them and gives them a reason to share – think Forbes or BuzzFeed.
Smart, successful brands, and the agencies that serve them, benefit from resource integration and the increased ability to deliver quality content. They don't weigh one discipline against another, but rather engage all avenues to excite and engage their audiences.
By working collaboratively, content creators and media buyers have greater agility and efficiency, closing the gap between the ever-increasing speed of digital and the shrinking need for budget-to-impact ratio. This cannot happen if both are not occupying the same strategic space.
Consumers benefit from compelling content served up in new ways – content that is easy to access, shareable, and is enjoyed as an organic user experience uninterrupted by ads.
The threat of weakened brand credibility and loss of integrity is not something to ignore. It is incumbent on each of us to ask if what we are creating is in context and of high quality.
In today's converged communications environment, brands need to think and act as publishers: Define and develop their editorial voice, then publish the content that brings it to life across paid, owned, and earned channels. More integration, not less, is the way forward.
Content creation is set to be a wild wild west for the foreseeable future. However, creating a boundary between content creators and media buyers is a good first step in setting up rules that will preserve editorial integrity.