I was struck by this quite intelligent blog post by (full disclosure) our client MiPro Consulting, which discusses the topic of earned media vs. paid media. Blogger Jeff Ventura writes:
You can rarely buy your way into a customer’s attention landscape, because attention is very human and subjective and can’t be genuinely engaged unless – get this – something earns the attention. In fact, the brain is hard-wired to only pay attention to interesting things. Today, with the average person consuming tens of thousands of ad impressions every day, attention is at a premium. When media advertising debuted, the media slots were at a premium, and people had far more attention capacity.
Today, the inverse is true.
If you want people to notice you, earn it. Be creative, be human, be authentic. No matter what business you’re in, people want to feel connected. This includes brands. The good news is that there are more tools out there than ever to help you do this. The bad news is that you just can’t throw money at the problem and make it go away: to really engage your customers is hard work. You have to be who you say you are.
Nobody cares anymore about what companies say about themselves; that’s commercial narcissism. What people do care about is how a company acts, the behavior it exhibits, the values it demonstrates.
Quite so. Jeff’s comments were inspired by this must-read blog post in Advertising Age.
We have long held, as a public relations firm first, that the value of earned media far outweighs that of paid media. That is to say, a newspaper article carries more weight, more importance, more credulity and, as a result, holds more value than the junior-page ad sitting opposite it. People, for the most part, buy a newspaper to read the news, not the ads (most of which are skimmed right by). We buy magazines for the articles. We watch television for the programs. Ads can be intrusions on our attention, and can easily be tuned out.
How does that translate to an online world? Quite aptly. For example, our focus would be on winning search terms organically, rather than paying per click or buying adwords on Google. I would much rather see a company establishing a presence in the social media sphere than buying a banner ad on a website. And, as Jeff suggests, I would counsel a client to earn a reputation, rather than pay for it.