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Note: This article is part of B’s Notions – a series written by our CEO Barbara Wichmann.
Over the last year or so, a new trend has taken hold of the public relations industry. Teams are now offering the promise of “guaranteed coverage.” While it’s not necessarily a false promise, it is one that is widely misunderstood, particularly in the startup space.
In my experience, more often than not, “guaranteed coverage” doesn’t mean what founders think. Startup teams, under immense pressure to perform, may buy into unrealistic expectations of immediate media coverage and not be aware of lead times or editorial requirements for coverage.
To answer that, it’s crucial to establish the distinction between earned media and paid media. Though often lumped together, they serve different purposes and achieve different results. Earned media, for example, is meant to increase brand awareness and enhance credibility – the goal isn’t to move product, it is to build momentum and thought leadership. On the other hand, paid media is more akin to advertising.
Earned media coverage is obtained through relationships as well as the newsworthiness of your story and how relevant it is to a particular audience. It is not associated with any financial transaction. For example:
A journalist or outlet is never obligated to cover your story – they receive hundreds of pitches a week. They are looking for compelling stories that align with their audience and editorial guidelines. In short, earned media placements are merit-based.
These types of placements carry a sense of credibility, trust and independent validation, making them a valuable asset for startups because they cannot be paid for. There are no guarantees when it comes to earned media. This brings us to the next category.
Paid media, in contrast, involves a financial transaction and provides an almost certain avenue for engaging your target audiences. If a placement comes with a guarantee, this is the category it falls under. Some examples include:
These channels ensure your information will appear on a certain number of outlets or reach a specific number of eyes. In essence, you’re paying for visibility.
“Guaranteed coverage,” might include sponsored content or advertorials, but if an agency is offering hundreds of placements, they are likely securing them through a newswire service option. This involves paying a fee to have your press release distributed to various news outlets. Although these are technically media placements, they are not earned media placements. They aren’t the result of journalists or editors handpicking your story for its merit or relevance to their audience.
That’s not to say paid coverage isn’t valuable. In fact, it can be incredibly beneficial for businesses of all sizes – it’s something we leverage for our own clients. Newswire services, for example, when used with proper expectations, can disseminate your message across multiple media outlets, greatly enhancing brand recognition. But it’s essential for startups to understand that this is a widespread broadcast of their news, not curated, interest-based placements.
Ultimately, a successful business strategy isn’t about choosing one approach over another, but rather understanding how different components work together to create a comprehensive, cohesive plan. Earned media, with its inherent credibility, can work in tandem with paid media’s ability to guarantee visibility, each playing a crucial role in your overall communications strategy.
Pair this with effective marketing efforts and you’re looking at a multi-pronged approach that amplifies your brand’s message, engages your target audiences and drives your business forward. In the end, it’s all about weaving together the strengths of each strategy to create a balanced and potent mix.
We can help you develop your media strategy. Get in touch with us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 415-351-2227!
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