According to Mark Borkowski, renowned publicist of the UK’s top entertainment brands for over thirty years and founder of Borkowski.do – it always has. It’s just that it’s more professionalised now and PR has a bigger voice than before so we should be able to get a bigger piece of the pie.

Mark Borkowski spoke at this morning’s Gorkana breakfast briefing on paid for versus earned media, alongside Tiffanie Darke – Creative Content Director at Method, the creative content agency for The Times, The Sunday Times and The Sun – and Emma Tucker, Deputy Editor at The Times.

So, if paid for content is now a valued part of PR, how do we as publicists ensure that we get the chance to incorporate it into our PR campaign planning?

Planning is the key word. Clients need to involve us in the integrated marketing planning process from the outset. Tiffanie explained how she works with PRs a lot to develop paid for content because it’s us that have the best ideas.

However, she said the ideas she generates with PRs rarely get off the ground because clients still sit us separately from the media buying agencies and we don’t work collaboratively to streamline the client’s message and develop stories that will truly resonate with the target audience.

So surely the answer lies in us creating the content ourselves…Isn’t that easy for us given it’s what we’ve always done – press releases, advertorials, pictures, events – you name it we can create content that tells a great story. However, we’ve been used to it getting twisted and turned upside down by third party influencers such as journalists. We always used to rely on them to spread our content for us. Now, with the rise of digital we can spread it ourselves – well online at least – through what’s become known as native advertising or content marketing.

It’s not the same with print

We still need journalists to get our stories in the papers. Or do we? Can we really tell an authentic story through paid for print content and do we need it? Shouldn’t we be able to create print media coverage without paying for it?

An example that Tiffanie talked through was a year long campaign run by The Sunday Times in partnership with Vodafone as part of their Ready Business Britain campaign to equip businesses with the knowledge and the tools to ready themselves for now, in five years and in 2020. The campaign will kick off with a summit in July with prestigious CEOs, George Osborne and David Cameron and will be used to build a story over the year, including a social media campaign and nationwide mentoring scheme.

I couldn’t help but wonder, couldn’t Vodafone do this without paying a fortune to the Sunday Times and do it with a simpler media partnership or exclusive with The Sunday Times instead? The huge benefit of doing it in partnership with The Sunday Times though is that a) it’s guaranteed coverage for a whole year and b) Vodafone gets access to The Sunday Times’s wealth of insight into Britain’s businesses in order to inform campaign content and get cut through with the audience they want to reach. Plus, not forgetting access to their little black book of contacts.

Can we convince our clients to invest in paid for content as part of our PR campaigning?

First of all, we need to challenge how PR is integrated with the other marketing agencies, particularly media buying.

We also need to remember that we’re in a brilliant position to demand that we’re involved in the development of paid for content. We’ve got the relationships with the journalists and know how to work with them to tell a good story. Plus, PR is more respected than it used to be with heightened awareness of us as excellent content creators. We need to be in the middle of making paid, earned and owned a holistic approach to campaign planning for our clients.