Two reports this week prove that you don't have to be a PR maven to score headlines and buzz -- you just have to hold enough budget to buy your way in.
Earlier this week, in what you might call a grand statement of the obvious, Nielsen BuzzMetrics reported that marketers can, in fact, buy their way into WOM. According to their press release:
After analyzing blog buzz volume, ad spending, purchase intentions and actual product sales, Nielsen found the best predictor of buzz for newly launched consumer-packaged goods (CPG) is a large advertising budget...
The study evaluated nearly 80 new CPG products across several subcategories, launched in the U.S. between 2005 and 2006. On average, the top 10% of products with the most buzz, spent nearly $20 million on paid media for the launch. In contrast, the companies that generated the next 40% of blog buzz spent an average of $15 million and the companies that generated the bottom 50% spent an average of only $5 million.
In another blow to hard-working PR firms everywhere, PR Week (via MarketingCharts) reports that 17% of senior marketers have bought advertising in exchange for ink. (Shocker.) Others admitted securing their media placements with gifts, or paying for favorable coverage.
The difference between these two reports is that there is, of course, nothing unethical about generating buzz with a brilliant ad campaign. If you're buying billboards on Times Square with smiling tushes on them, let's face it...people are going to talk and blog about it. You've created some news.
The PR Week study highlights a crisis in ethics and a serious misunderstanding of PR on the part of certain marketing professionals and editors. I've certainly talked to advertising sales people who have suggested that my odds for editorial placement would certainly be greater if I were an advertiser -- just as my odds of securing a speaking gig at certain industry events are increased by a sponsorship. And, having a fairly solid background in PR, this always struck me as a little slimey.
Hopefully, this PR Week report will encourage marketers to establish a code of ethics for press relations -- and maybe some of those editors will straighten up and fly right, too. At the very least, we should all see the value in a good PR or media relations professional. Getting your name in the headlines should be the result of hard work and earned merit -- not a hefty advertising budget.