Last month the Council of Public Relations Firms published a sponsored section in Advertising Age, "The PR Factor 2011". This had us scratching our heads a bit, for although Ad Age is an excellent vehicle for reaching marketing industry decision makers, we were baffled as to why a trade association representing a profession for whom delivering credible, legitimate earned media coverage is a key core competency decided to promote itself via a paid advertorial. 

After all, what sophisticated marketer would read - and actually believe - anything in an advertorial? If the objective was to influence the readers of Ad Age, then why not utilize a media relations approach to place a credible news story about the advantages of PR that marketers would actually read and consider? 

The matter was subsequently reported on by PR Newser. Astoundingly, a number of PR professionals who commented on the story did not seem to understand the difference between sponsored content and legitimate editorial coverage to impart credibility and thus influence opinion. 

Ironically, shortly thereafter, one of the world's top advertising industry executives, WPP Chairman Martin Sorrell, in a PR Week by-liner wrote, "We all know that if we can get someone to write or say something good in editorial content, particularly in a trusted newspaper or magazine or on a respected television channel, this will be more effective than placing a paid-for advertisement next to the content."