3 Reasons Why Paid PR Placements Don’t Pay Off in the Long Run

3 Reasons Why Paid PR Placements Don’t Pay Off in the Long Run

written by Vicky Lynch

Many potential PR clients will ask how they know if they are getting an ROI on their PR campaign investment. And of course, they should ask that question. Hiring a PR firm is a huge leap of faith. 

Most firms, small or large, simply can’t guarantee a specific amount of coverage. I always say that what we can guarantee is that if we don’t get traction, our team will continue to brainstorm new topics and try new angles and tactics until we do get traction. 

With all that in mind, it’s understandable then that many entrepreneurs or thought leaders can be easily romanced by services that offer paid PR placements. And in fact, many reputable media outlets offer paid placements or “sponsorships” alongside their normal coverage. 

But the vast majority of pay-to-play publicity opportunities aren’t going to be the best fit for building an authentic brand.

Here’s 3 Reasons Why Paid Placements Won’t Pay Off In the Long Run:

  • It’s against the rules and could negatively impact your reputation. There’s a seedy underbelly in journalism where contributors to outlets (who are being paid), make deals with influencers or PR firms to write about their clients for a fee. And while it may seem like a great opportunity, if these writers are found out by their outlets, they are out. And blackballed. 

Remember this, when a journalist compromises their integrity to make money, it really sets up a negative precedent in the industry. Because they aren’t covering stories they feel should be told, but rather stories that they are getting a kickback from. And when they are found out as a fraud? Well, you don’t want to be their latest feature.

Outlets do take these stories down once the writers are found out, and the outlet may place you on their “blacklist” along with the writer. And remember, editors move around and talk with one another. You can quickly get foreclosed out of a lot of future opportunities for media coverage.

  • You are paying a hugely inflated fee. Here’s the scenario.  A firm approaches you with a guaranteed hit on a podcast. Let’s say the podcast is charging them 5k. They are then turning around and charging you 10k for the same placement. So, while in your mind you aren’t paying a publicist for all their downtime – brainstorming angles, sending pitches, coordinating interviews, you’re actually paying more for them to just coordinate the interview. And it could be at a much higher rate than you would pay to a publicist who may not get you that one big hit, but will get numerous other hits that add up to a well-rounded campaign with broader coverage and much better SEO value overall than that one hit. 
  • The placement isn’t going to be as reputable for you or your brand. Chances are if you can buy a placement, no matter how well it’s disguised, people are going to know you paid for it.  Some outlets are completely transparent about the cost to be featured. Others loosely veil the cost by using words like “sponsorship” or “advertising.” Others only share that they are pay-to-play with the public relations community. But no matter what, word does get around. 

And what’s more, by being less than authentic with their content, these outlets are likely not producing the same level of content that they were when they were unbiased and looking to add value for their audience first and foremost. Do you really want to hitch your wagon to those types of outlets?

Are there exceptions to the rule I’ve outlined here? Absolutely! There are a couple of scenarios where you might actually want to pay for coverage. 

For example, there are outlets that offer paid programs to contribute articles. They charge a nominal fee to pay for expenses that used to be covered by advertisers or subscriptions and you can find them in reputable outlets including Forbes, Entrepreneur, Fast Company, or others.

Yes, people will still know that the vertical is a paid one. And it might prohibit you from ever being featured in or writing for their other verticals. But, if you have good advice to offer, the average reader will just see that. And, depending on your goals, it may be worth the price tag. 

In general, the paid opportunities that might be worth considering, are going to be charging smaller fees than the true pay-to-play and they will have strict editorial standards and guidelines. You also may have to go with your gut on these opportunities. If it feels underhanded or sleazy, it probably is.  And ultimately, that kind of coverage isn’t going to build your brand in a positive way.

Interested in getting PR the right way? Schedule a call with us to chat more about your PR needs and goals. 

Vicky Lynch
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