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Are You Earning Media or Buying an Advertisement?

The focus of this blog post by Susan Apgood, president and co-founder of News Generation, is on the debate concerning guaranteed vs. earned media placement. “Earned coverage” means the content has to be strong enough for stations to air it; “guaranteed coverage” means public relations firms purchase air time for their content.

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We recently had a meeting and were asked if we can “guarantee placements.” Well, we know what that really means.  But, many others not so close and passionate about issues like this might not.  Guaranteed placements means advertisement buy. Period. End of story.

Media outlets don’t run stories just because of a “great” relationship. They run stories for two reasons: 1, because it is great content and a benefit to their listeners; and 2, because they are paid to do so.

The very fabric of what we are made of is because of the former.  And, the latter is the very thread that unravels our industry.  Let’s call a spade a spade.  If companies are out there buying time, why not just admit it?  Why not just say it is an advertisement purchase and not a ‘guaranteed placement?’

Do others present the case that a ‘guaranteed placement’ is a public relations tactic that is different from earned media?  Are they so scared their content will not be accepted and used by newsrooms that they cower and go straight to this tactic?

The first and most important difference is that guaranteed placements are advertisements, where money is exchanged between service companies and media outlets.  The second is that earned media placements run in news and public affairs programming, while ‘guaranteed placements’ run in advertising segments, therefore, giving them less credibility and monetary value.

If a story would not stand up under the strict news criteria set by reporters, why do we call it public relations? Why not call it paid media or advertising?

Therefore, the usage of a story depends on its news value, listener relevancy, and how it fits into the current news issues of the day.

As PR people, shouldn’t that be the creed we work under each day?

Susan Apgood photoSusan Matthews Apgood, president and co-founder of News Generation, has been in public relations for nearly 20 years, and is active in a number of public relations associations, including the Public Relations Society of America and Washington Women in Public Relations. Apgood frequently guest speaks in undergraduate and graduate classes at George Washington University, Johns Hopkins University, Georgetown University, and American University, and in 2013 moderated a media relations-related panel at PRSA’s Health Academy Conference.

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