Integrating paid media into the traditional earned agency model

Jim Hawker, Founder and Director, Threepipe candidly shares his story about the challenge of modernising an agency from earned to paid, shared and owned.

Profile: digital marketing and public relations agency

Insight: integrating paid and earned across all types of media delivers strong results

In 2013 we made the decision to change our public relations agency model. This has been a costly and at times a pretty painful experience. It has meant learning to work with very different types of people and personalities and a very steep learning curve on all sides that had to be overcome.

In the process we have lost clients, lost pitches and at times even lost ourselves within the marketing mix.

All change: clients and media

At no time have I regretted it though as I passionately believe that the old ways of doing and measuring public relations are becoming redundant and even the least knowledgeable of clients recognise the need for change.

As I write this the news is breaking that The Independent newspaper is going digital and that the Trinity Mirror Group has made most of its local paper photographers redundant, in favour of taking more User Generated Content from social feeds.

It was Gini Dietrich that first devised the Paid, Earned, Shared and Owned (PESO) model and that has become the central part of how we are organised internally and how we aim to create client campaigns. If you wander around Threepipe you may at first glance not notice anything particularly different from most public relations agency offices.

Dual screens: data and content

Look more closely though and you will see half our team pouring over dual screens, churning through client data, as half of our agency income is now derived from paid media campaigns running through paid search and display advertising.

These campaigns demand people who understand data and analytics to very high degree and way above what you would expect from a public relations professional.

Having these data and analytical skills within Threepipe has become massively important in enabling us to be able to create a more data led and integrated approach to our work. Increasingly we are running native advertising and social commerce campaigns through the content we are creating and the channels we are managing for our clients. None of this would be possible without the paid media skills within the company.

Paying your way

Paid media allows us to extend the reach and improve the targeting of the content we are creating. This combined with the data and analytical skills allows us to demonstrate impact and value of the client work in a much clearer way.

I meet many public relations professionals who shudder at the thought of a paid approach. But I increasingly wonder how they are running their campaigns. Even at the most simple level, if you want to run social media campaigns you need to spend money for that content to be seen and targeted.

Increasingly the social influencers who delivered earned media coverage are now being represented by agents who are demanding fees for content to be created because they know the value of their own networks.

As we enter 2016 I see media buying agencies pitching and winning social media accounts and I see search agencies winning public relations business. Both these disciplines understand the power of paid media which makes them a big threat to the public relations industry.

Public relations professionals need to be more open minded to the impact a paid approach can have, before another agency eats their lunch.