When I first started working in communications there was a distinct gulf between those that ‘did marketing’ and those that ‘did PR’. For some old school PR colleagues, the idea of paid-for content was considered ‘cheating’ and the notion of your key media contacts being salesmen and not journalists would have been absurd.

Today however, that gulf is no longer there and media partnerships are a growing part of the work we do for clients. That’s not to say straight editorial work and traditional marketing are declining – far from it – but there is an emerging and often innovative space where these two elements meet in the middle.

Amongst the benefits of partnership working is the ability to make delivering your message more of a two way street, with the guaranteed coverage being largely editorial in appearance but allowing you more control over content. It also helps ensure a wider audience is engaged through combining communication channels.

But how do you approach this type of activity when it comes to negotiating the deal? Here are our top three learnings from 2013.

1. Ensure the partnership IS a partnership

When approaching media partnerships, always seek to ensure there are benefits for both parties.

For example, using your unique content to help drive traffic to a partner’s website (such as the Apprenticeship vacancies partnerships we created).

This may include cross pollenating social media channels to offer both client and media partner a new audience, or be simply funding related.

Particularly for public sector or behaviour changing campaigns, if there is a call to action which readers or listeners are being urged to sign up for, make sure the media partner is leading by example and getting on board as part of the agreement.

Not only will this add credibility to the campaign but will also provide a genuine news angle for the editorial team to cover without needing to focus on your client alone – often a barrier in paid for content.

2. Get quality AND quantity

Partnership working offers the opportunity to be more creative with your campaign goals. If activity is sustained over a set period and across multiple channels, you can strike a balance of quality engagement targeting a more niche audience, with general awareness-raising messaging for the wider audience.

Ensuring the partnership includes content hosted on the media partner’s site with input into the user journey is key to this. For instance, the use of a competition element to your campaign offers a platform for the wider audience to be exposed to key messages, while a smaller audience of entrants is engaged with additional messaging via the application process.

3. Throw out the rulebook when it comes to negotiating

This type of campaign is still new territory for many media outlets – so don’t be afraid to be creative. There is huge potential for flexibility, particularly when it comes to online content, therefore don’t accept formulaic proposals which simply combine traditional elements.

Working with the editorial team as part of the negotiation process is one important factor to establish the boundaries of what will be created by them, what can be supplied by the client to be published unedited and what needs to be more clearly advertising led.

A recent example was an 8-page paid-for supplement created with a regional newspaper. Rather than pages of heavily branded, client written content, we worked with a journalist who wrote the content, guided by the client on subject matter for each page.

The client also contributed a by-lined foreword resulting in an unbiased supplement, which was not overtly branded yet clearly conveyed all the required messaging.

The result was a supplement made up of quality news content in keeping with the editorial tone of the publication. This in turn became more attractive for other advertisers and allowed the media partner to seek additional funding for the project.

Happy client + happy media + great coverage = Happy PR agency