Head to Head: Should PR invest more in media amplification?

In this series, Mumbrella invites the industry's senior PR professionals to share their opposing views on the industry's biggest issues. This week, Hannah Heather, consumer lead at WE Buchan, goes head to head with Communications Collective's managing director, Genevieve Brannigan, on whether PR should invest more in media amplification.

As the remit of public relations evolves, agencies and clients often debate whether or not PR agencies should invest more in media amplification and small media buying capabilities.

WE Buchan’s Hannah Heather argues that media amplification is a strong addition to PR’s toolbox and PR practitioners must adjust to make sure each piece of earned media achieves maximum impact.

Meanwhile, Genevieve Brannigan disagrees, arguing that media amplification and PR should remain separate because earned placements are more effective than payed placements anyway.

Yes argues, Hannah Heather, consumer lead at WE Buchan:

“Media amplification represents a strong addition to the traditional PR toolbox in a number of ways. Firstly with a rapidly evolving, and sadly diminishing traditional media landscape, as PR consultants we must adjust our practice to ensure each priceless earned placement secured delivers maximum impact for a brand. It’s our job to ensure that coverage works as hard as it can, when the eyeballs it might once have received could be less than half.

“Therefore as readerships continue to decline and we increasingly consume our news through digital and social, it should be common place to extend the reach of the story beyond the physical placement.

“Tapping into context and understanding the target audience you are trying to engage, alongside media amplification using the likes of Outbrain or Plista presents a fantastic way to make earned media coverage work just that little bit harder. By utilising data intelligence to repurpose and retarget earned coverage directly to your target audience, you can achieve the reach of paid while maintaining the authenticity that goes along with earned and maximise ROI. Similarly earned coverage should also be shared and amplified through a brand’s owned channels to signpost valuable third-party validation.

Heather says PR is so much more than just earned media

“However in today’s landscape, PR is so much more than earned coverage, so the best results are achieved by combining earned, owned and paid including enompassing content marketing, native
advertising and influencers (to name just a few).

“Native advertising partnerships are a good way to convey and amplify important messages. It is more freely received than advertising in its traditional form. Its non-disruptive and contextual quality gives content the appearance that it belongs, and therefore the audience is more likely to acknowledge and accept its message.

“The same goes with using influencers. When a person someone admires or values shares their thoughts on a product or service, the audience is more inclined to accept the message than through the obvious pimping of a product. However, with the change in influencer partnerships, inauthentic content can do more harm to a brand than good in a time where consumers are now savvy to marketing tactics.

“Creativity and a deep understanding of a brand’s role within the context of its audience becomes crucial in ensuring content is amplified but appears in a seamless and authentic manner.

“All of that said, we must remember that while paid content and media amplification is a useful and important part of our industry, reliance on it, or incorrect use, could very well lead to the loss of the very value of PR – authenticity and credibility.

“So, put simply, yes PR should invest more in media amplification – however, be warned; take a step wrong today in incorrectly delivering your message either via inauthentic relationships or poorly targeted promotion and Australians won’t be afraid in shaming you tomorrow.”

No argues, Genevieve Brannigan, managing director, Communications Collective:

“Paying for advertising is incongruous with the function of PR and, despite a shift towards advertorial in many publications, the two should remain distinguished.

“The fundamental aim of PR should be to influence the influencers, paving the way for meaningful and important content to be placed at the forefront. Effective PR involves the messaging and ideas communicated being organically relevant to a publication’s readers; this results in earned media, which is far more successful than purchased placements. Integrating PR and advertising is therefore unnecessary.

Brannigan says PR is more cost effective than advertising

“Not only is PR is more cost effective than advertising, the engagement with genuine content is significantly higher – as media consumption increasingly fragments, we advise clients to invest in strong strategy development and implementation as opposed to simply boosting ad budgets.

“The lifecycle achieved from effective PR placements and partnerships is far greater than what can be achieved via advertorials and advertising. The ads in a print magazine or newspaper will, for instance, survive only as long as people retain their physical copies, while news will generally continue to exist in the form of searchable, online content which is essential for long-term brand building.

“The PR and advertising industries operate with very different premises at their core. Advertising placement is a top-down strategy which often tells the audience what a brand thinks is important. PR, on the other hand, is much more relevant to the current landscape.

“It gives value to the reader by offering solutions to problems and encouraging two-way communication. Effective and engaging PR is about really understanding conversations and creating genuine brand narratives to engage with target publics.

“There shouldn’t be an increased investment in media buying from PR as it undermines the foundations on which the industry operates, reducing the potential for newsworthy content to be prioritised in future. Studies reveal time and time again that there is simply less engagement with advertising than there is with news – and PR should be maximising this advantage.

“Broader communications still rests with earned and not paid media; clients typically approach PR agencies for the former, and their advertising counterparts for the latter. Maintaining this degree of specialisation allows both industries to thrive, and affords PR the scope to explore alternative organic opportunities for brand building – such as thought leadership and synergetic partnerships.”

  • As told to Abigail Dawson. If you’re a senior PR professional who would like to take part in a future Head to Head, please email abigail@mumbrella.com.au

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