With the advent of social media, public relations methods have dramatically evolved over time. Let’s hop on the time travel machine and take ourselves back to circa 2004 (Yes, pre-Kardashian era when Paris and Nicole were a thing). You’ll see PR professionals over-working the stapler and frantically posting stamps to mail out the press release and pitches. In front of them, is a massive bulky box called a computer, allowing them to connect with clients via e-mail and AOL chat. The opportunities to market and advertise content on behalf of the clients were vast, endless, and not to mention, earned or free. That same year, Facebook came into play. Then followed Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Snapchat, Periscope, bloggers, etc. Well, here we are: It’s 2016 and we’re continuing to dominate the digital frontier.
Social media brought about change not only affecting the PR agencies themselves, but blurring the lines between paid and earned media. E-mails, mailboxes, magazines and hardcopy publications essentially became legacy platforms. Social media allowed real-time photo/video sharing, news feeds, open and free flowing communication without any limitations. It enabled anyone needing additional income to realize the value as a digital entrepreneur and self-publicist. So it’s not so surprising that PR professionals have been paying to get viewable content by purchasing ‘Likes’ and Followers, paying bloggers and other site owners. From this perspective, public relations isn’t so much a professional occupation anymore, rather a skill possessed by the average teen with some money. Whether we like it or not, paid media is the new age model for PR and it’s got some PR’s feeling reasonably snarky about it.
But let’s face it; being stuck in the traditional PR methods won’t get the PR professionals anywhere. Here’s how paid media can be used to your own advantage:
1) More control: When space is purchased, the content is more controllable, measurable and valued. Paid media will typically offer statistics that show, for example, how many people viewed your release, where it appeared online, the number of unique visitors and monthly page views.
2) Methodical: Rather than relying on hope or chance that a brand will mention the clients product, paid-for media can be used as a strategy of seeding content to create a traction for wider transmission and engagement
3) Cause you earned it: When PR practitioners land the space they aren’t paying for, they know it was earned and will only build on the reputation of the PR company.