There seems to be quite an outrage on FB at the moment, with coaches calling out other coaches for being featured on Yahoo! Finance but not declaring that they’ve paid for the opportunity.
And while this isn’t illegal, it’s certainly not what I would class as ‘traditional PR’.
However, there is a place for paid media.
There’s also a place for earned media.
And a place for placed media.
But what’s the difference, I hear you cry!
Well, in a nutshell - one is an opportunity that has been secured on merit, expertise and reputation, one has been secured because a payment has been made and the other is simply uploading pre-written content onto someone else’s website.
Does that make one worse than the other?
It depends who you speak to.
And it also depends on the goals of your business - and how transparent you want to be in terms of sharing how you get featured in the press.
Now, it’s fair to say that I’m a purist when it comes to publicity.
It’s a subject I studied at university and it’s been my career choice ever since. That’s 20 whole years of working in the industry, thank you very much!
And yes, the world has changed in that time.
The internet has literally exploded.
And social media now exists.
But, the vital skill that you learn as a publicist is to take information from a client and turn it into PR Gold. The fun is in creating news hooks that are going to get journalists salivating and wanting to feature your clients.
Call me old fashioned, but that’s what I know and understand to be (part of) publicity.
Publicity is all about relationship building.
It’s about building trust with journalists and presenting them with ideas that will appeal to their readers/listeners/viewers.
This is what’s referred to as earned media. You’re earning your place in their magazine, on their podcast, on their TV show, based on your credibility and expertise.
Gaining earned media isn’t something you can do overnight, unless you happen to be in the right place at the right time, BUT it can certainly open the floodgates to more opportunities.
AND, journalists are more likely to want to use your expertise again if you’re easy to work with and can supply them the information they need, in the timeframe in which they need it.
Paid media, on the other hand, is publicity that you secure once a monetary translation has taken place.
Back in the good old days, this was considered to be advertising, or an advertorial, but today, in 2021, you can pay for editorial space and not have to declare it as either of the above.
One particular example of paid media is if you pay to become a regular contributor for a magazine, or you’re given the opportunity to share an article that you’ve written for a nominal fee.
Paid media isn’t ‘bad’ in comparison to earned media. If you’re getting in front of your ideal clients, you have the budget to pay for opportunities and don’t mind paying for a fast-track into the press.
But this isn’t PR.
However, I can see why it’s becoming more popular, from a media outlet perspective.
The print industry is struggling right now.
Online seems to be an easier concept when it comes to sharing news, views, opinions and articles, but any kind of media outlet needs to be monetised in order for it to exist.
With print media, we know that editorial opportunities are possible, because advertisers are creating enough revenue to warrant the printing of the publication.
With online publications, selling advertising isn’t as easy, and the investment isn’t as big or as lucrative.
A full page colour advert in a glossy magazine is far more exclusive and high end than a banner running across the top of a website.
So, from a business perspective, I can understand why online outlets charge a small amount for people to upload their own pre-written content.
However, the lines are blurred when entrepreneurs and brands are paying for editorial coverage but not declaring that they’ve paid for it.
This is where there seems to be problems, especially in the coaching space, according to the posts that I see online.
And I’m not seeing it a few times, I’m pretty much seeing posts on a daily basis calling out the people who pay, but don’t declare it.
But, as with most things, not everything is that black and white.
If you’re paying to work with a publicist or a PR agency, then technically you’re paying them to get you in the press, but they’re doing so on an ‘earned media’ basis.
And quite often they’ll incorporate placed media opportunities into their remit as a way for you to maximise content that you’re already sharing.
For example, at PR with Perkes out #1 priority is to pitch fresh and relevant ideas directly to journalists to get you featured. However, we will also take a look at your blog content, take out the banging bits and upload it to a media outlet that accepts pre-written articles.
This just gives you more bang for your buck and positions you in front of more of your ideal clients.
When you’re investing in a PR agency, or a consultant, you’re paying them for their expertise, their ability to turn your business into a news hook, their contacts and their relationships with the press.
I’ve worked with clients in the past who haven’t declared that their PR coverage has been secured by us, making it look like they’ve secured their own PR coverage
Is that the wrong thing to do? The jury is out on that one (but let me know what you’re view is on the subject)
As if working with a PR agency is a bad thing and something to be ashamed of!
To me, surely you’d want to shout about it from the rooftops as you can afford to invest in a PR agency?
Surely it shows that you’re spending your time in your zone of genius, serving clients and being badass - which is what you want, right?
Anyway, I guess the only time that publicity is completely free, is if you’re securing it yourself.
But then that takes time, and your time has a value. And if you’re spending time pitching to the press then you’re potentially eating into time that could be spent serving clients.
As I said, it’s very much a grey area, and everyone is going to have their own opinion on what is ‘right’.
The thing to remember is:
Paid media isn’t a bad thing.
Outsourcing your PR to a publicist or an agency isn’t a bad thing.
And uploading pre-written content to media outlets isn’t a bad thing. Let’s face it, Huffington Post and Thrive Global have existed for years, so as a concept it clearly works!
However, I will say that pre-written articles do still need to go through an approval process, they won’t just publish any old piece of work, it still has to meet their guidelines and be relevant for their audience.
The route you choose to take; earned media vs paid media vs placed media, will all depend on what your goals are and how much budget you have to invest.
Do I see paid media as 'less than' traditional PR? Yes I do, for all the reasons that I’ve listed above.
Do I see placed media as 'less than' traditional PR? Well yes, I do, because it’s not technically PR.
At the end of the day, if you want to raise your profile, become the authority in your industry and attract dream clients into your business, then do whatever it takes for you to feel like you’re achieving that.
If a client came to me and really wanted to be featured in a publication that only accepts payment for articles, then I’d have a conversation that looked at the benefits of doing so.
If it meets their needs then absolutely I’d say yes. If it doesn’t and the article is being used purely to gain vanity likes, then I’d say no.
At the end of the day I can only advise clients on what I feel is best for them and their business. But ultimately, the choice is theirs.
Do I think that paid media has a place? Yes, from the perspective of the media outlet.
Do I think that placed media has a place? Yes, if it sits beside a traditional PR campaign.
Do I think that either will wipe out earned media? Absolutely not.
So, next time you’re looking at opportunities to secure coverage for your brand, make sure that it’s moving you closer to your goals.
Because what will make the most impact is being seen in the press consistently, over a long period of time.
However you invest, make sure you do it strategically, with intention and focus on the outcome.
Nothing is a silver bullet after all, and coverage is NEVER guaranteed, unless you pay for it of course :-)