Grudge Match: Content Marketing v. Earned Media

PR Small Business

I subscribe to countless newsletters and e-mail alerts. I read numerous articles and receive even more via e-mail. Some I read religiously (I’ll meet or tweet with you one day, Seth Godin); others I glance over and move on to the next task. The CyberAlert blog typically falls into the later category, but the  latest post caught my attention (which is what good post titles should do, so mission accomplished):

Why Content Marketing Will Never Beat Earned  Media.

Now, for those of you not familiar with the term “earned media,” it is defined as publicity earned  through promotional efforts other than advertising; the natural results of public/media relations efforts, events, ad campaigns and the content that you create within your owned media channels.

Get  it? Yeah, I know.

Think word-of-mouth, buzz, and “objective” news articles = earned media. PR Small BusinessContent Marketing on the other hand, is owned media, or media generated through your company’s blog.

OK – now that we’ve got the particulars out of the way, the post goes on to say:

Content marketing can not replace earned media. The most successful companies partner with the media rather than try to replace it with content marketing.

Immediately, I got defensive to this  line of thought. This  is a very lopsided view for anyone to take, let alone a successful business, small or large. The post goes on to say that while content marketing shouldn’t be abandoned, it should be used sparingly. However, earned media is much more valuable due to some compelling factors such as “consumers trust earned media,” and consumer value the truth because “Earned media is largely free of corporate meddling and bias.”

Again – and coming from a guy who’s calling his blog Perfecting Naivety – this is a dangerously naive assumption, and thus a dangerous piece of advice.

First, for every data point used in the post, I could provide a counterpoint data source to argue the opposite. Secondly – for any small business owner in the San Diego area (and many other cities with a large and  thriving Small Business economy), while word of mouth falls under the earned media moniker, the author here  is speaking largely about PR. Not every small business could afford to have a PR department, or an agency of record to generate earned media.

So then what? What’s a company to do if earned media is too hard too expensive, too much to handle?

The answer is everyone’s least favorite: it depends.

It depends on you, your company, your services or products, your goals, your budget, what has worked, what hasn’t worked, what is working, what isn’t working…it  all depends.

And like a good investment strategy, there is not one marketing channel or marketing method that will win the day for your business. Diversify: use content marketing, traditional marketing, earned media, paid media. Then test, measure and analyze the results, adjust and move on with what works, dumping what doesn’t.

At the end of the day, it’s not about defining what’s better; it’s about defining what’s better for you and your business through a strategic plan and the measurement of results.

Anyone telling you something different is just plain naive.

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