A recent blog post at WordWrite acknowledged that advertising can be a necessary and even essential component of a complete marketing plan. The post goes on to caution that considering content marketing a part of a communication or PR program should not be classified as anything other than advertising, saying that in effect a "paid ad is a paid ad."

The gist of the article is that many PR firms are beginning to veer into advertising territory with paid content strategies. However, we agree with WordWrite that legitimate earned media coverage carries more weight and is absolutely more credible and effective than paid content. Communications firms should leave that tactic to the ad folks.

Building rapport with journalists and bloggers, establishing relationships with the media members most likely to cover your area of expertise, and providing newsworthy story pitches and commentary will help a company earn coveted real media coverage. These media opportunities can then be utilized by the company to extend and strengthen the reach into their customers’ awareness and thought processes, delivering a powerful return on investment.

The key is earning media exposure instead of paying for it. Yes it’s hard work. No, it doesn’t happen overnight. As more stories surface of companies “paying” for play in the media, and the public becomes more educated about what’s happening on that front, earned media will become even more valuable.