A Distribution Manifesto

Let’s talk Ron Burgandy.

I’m sure you’ve all seen the spot on ESPN where Will Ferrell interviews Peyton Manning. It was broadcast on-air and the video now has 3M+ views on YouTube. People have been sharing it everywhere and bloggers and media are talking and writing about it.

So was that a paid spot? Or was it earned? Or Owned? Or all of the above?

And even bigger question: Does it even matter?

Because the content was so good – so funny – that most people could care less where it came from or how they got it.

This is example of how the way marketers and communicators have traditionally thought about distribution has been turned on its head. This is the traditional way of thinking about distribution:


Separate and distinct distribution buckets that have their own unique types of content. For example, we think of earned as pitching stories to influencers and think of paid as buying an ad. Brands also segment distribution as well. They use their advertising agencies to do paid and think of it as media buying. The PR folks handle earned media and the social media people do owned via tweets, blog posts and Facebook posts.

But I’d argue that PAID, EARNED and OWNED is no longer applicable. The Internet and social media has destroyed that construct.

Because the fact of the matter is paid now runs across all distribution.

Kind of like this:

New Distribution Model

Paid no longer means advertising. It means amplifying and spreading digital content.

At the heart of all this, of course, is content. But not advertising content. Because audiences don’t want that type of content. They would rather have the content like Ron Burgandy interviewing Peyton Manning rather than the 30-second ad spot for the movie. This is brand content, but has editorial or entertainment value.

Distributing content is what communications is becoming. It’s the new PR.

And that means PR consultants need understand how to build distribution campaigns that have paid as a central part of it all the time.

In the current environment, media companies are ripe for partnerships, integrations and sponsorships – and most of these are paid. Yes, PR consultants can still pitch the media, but part of the relationship with influencers is now paid. Owned channels now require paid to be fully effective. And there are the new paid distribution platforms like OutBrain and Viral Gains that are rooted in media partnerships.

Whether we like it or not distribution is becoming the new media relations.

Brands and agencies have to adapt to this new environment. They need to focus less on creating ads and media buying and more on creating valuable content and spreading it.

What do you think?


Ron Burgandy interviews Peyton Manning on ESPN

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