The line between “earned” media and “paid” media continues to blur in the world of news, and it has become even more crucial for PR pros to establish relationships with media contacts that uphold the tradition of evaluating content for news’ sake.
As any PR pro who has attempted to make media calls in a foreign country knows all too well, there exists a culture of pay-to-play. “You want some editorial coverage in my publication? Sure. Our ad deadlines are at the end of the month. What will you be purchasing…” It’s on the surface and it’s expected. In the U.S., there has always been a fine line between editorial coverage and advertising but most media outlets here have upheld the integrity of PR as a “price-less” mechanism for sharing the news society needs and values. However, as times have changed and advertising revenues have dipped, there has been more pressure on everyone to sell.
As more outlets have shifted towards pay-to-play placements, it has become even more crucial for PR pros to establish relationships with media contacts that uphold the tradition of evaluating content for news’ sake. In addition to fostering true collaborative connections, communications professionals must mine and evaluate opportunities to make sure that clients’ products/services match up with an audience that values legitimate content and appreciates credible news sources. On countless occasions I’ve received a call from an excited client who says they were contacted by an organization with the promise of a 30 minute TV special which will air on cable TV networks. What they are not told is that they will be responsible for all of the production costs, well into the tens of thousands, and the show will air as a paid advertisement in the very early morning hours, not as credible news.
Savvy consumers understand the difference between paid placements and news content, and they will judge a brand on its news authenticity just as much as they will judge on hyped marketing claims. More and more the importance of not just getting a media placement, but getting the right hit, rises. As newspapers fold and media continues down its path towards localized online content and an ever-changing social atmosphere, it’s up to PR professionals to make the most out each and every media hit. The right media placement can exist online forever, so making that placement work for you is more important now than ever.