Edelman Switches Sides, Joins the ‘Paid Content’ Team

In a sign of the (changing) times, yesterday saw Richard Edelman, president and CEO of Edelman PR, perform something of an about-face on an issue crucial to our industry’s ongoing “PR vs. Advertising” debate. In a blog post on the firm’s site, Edelman declared his newfound (if somewhat grudging) support for “paid” media/content as a valuable element of the PR arsenal.

Why did he change his mind? What led him to accept the idea that PR professionals must simultaneously pitch and create content? In short, promotional trends like sponsored stories and native advertising have changed the media game as companies scramble to develop new revenue streams to replace the dwindling profits of traditional advertising sales.

We’ve all read stories asserting the same, but recent months have clarified the fact that PR firms must aggressively make the most of the shift or risk losing opportunities to “media buying firms” that work directly with brands in another iteration of the traditional advertiser/client relationship.

As an example of the new paradigm, Edelman mentions the recent partnership between Samsung and the Associated Press (negotiated by Edelman, of course) that allows the electronics brand to release two sponsored messages like the one below via the AP’s feed each day during the 2013 Consumer Electronics Conference.

While this message inspired some backlash and accusations of the AP compromising its “journalistic ethics” by publishing paid media, Edelman has a very valid point: the PR world must take initiative to benefit from this new model. He sees several ways for big-name publications like The Economist and Business Insider to partner with sponsors by granting blog space, video content and more while maintaining their own editorial independence.

What do we think? Does Edelman’s post signify the end of the “earned over paid” content debate?

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