Should you Pay to Play? Advice from Our Team
They come in various flavors. The too-good-to-be-true TV spot. The “Pssst I can get you into XXXX, guaranteed, just pay me $YYYY.” The endless procession of awards and articles with price tags attached.
Many PR people reflexively dismiss these and spend a lot of time explaining why to clients.
It’s a mistake to indiscriminately shoot them all down, as some are worth considering. I explain why in this post and share thoughts from our team.
You Gotta Pay Somebody
Bob Dylan sang that you’ve got to serve somebody. It is also true that in PR you’ve got to pay someone, even if this means salaries or an agency fee. So, PR is not free earned media, despite what some say.
Beyond the cost of PR talent, it can be tough to understand where to invest.
The growth in content marketing and paid media options add to the confusion. Some think that traditional PR is a waste of money. Others say that the media game is all rigged (e.g., one client berated me for mocking their paid TV spot, saying all media is bought and paid for anyway). It’s a cynical view – true, you can buy TV time on an infomercial hosted by some B list celebrity that runs at 2 am in isolated markets but you can’t buy, and stage-manage, a network TV news spot.
Should you pay that writer who contributes to major publications and can get you in for a fee, guaranteed? While tempting, you’ll likely only get a minor mention and may get outed as it is a shady practice for contributors to make these kinds of promises.
The most irritating is all those offers to buy placements in top vendor articles as well as awards, like the kinds mentioned in my post: “PR Hits a Paywall.”
However, some paid opportunities are worth it. You need to pay to apply for most awards, including for those that carry weight in your market. And selected paid media may be a great value.
Where is the line? Which opportunities are worth considering?
Experts Chime In
I asked our team and reflected on how Fusion PR has answered the question. Here are some of the answers I got.
The awards that are tied to a major publication and typically cost between $200 – $400 to enter should be considered. Ones from FierceWireless or LightReading (in the telecom space), for example. I tend to entertain those and then vet them to see if the client has a real chance before providing a recommendation. The rest I really don’t see any value in and the prices are usually out of control.Ross
There are times where it makes sense when to consider paid media opportunities like Forbes councils, especially if it hits the target audience and/or they’re in a difficult market for garnering media visibility.Jordan
As far as bad ones – anything in which my client has already been shortlisted for, and it’s something they didn’t apply for yet still have to pay, is a bad sign.Brian
I think a single publisher runs several of these outlets, because I constantly get what appears to be the same note (same formatting, similar wording, etc.) from different-sounding publications offering my clients inclusion in roundups like “Best Cybersecurity Solutions” and “Top 10 Fast-Growing Companies” in exchange for payment. Once you see two of these and get a feel for them, it’s simple to recognize further attempts. Publication titles include “SuperbCrew,” “CIO Applications,” “CIOReview,” “Analytics Insights,” “Technology Headlines,” “Beyond Exclamation,” “Aspioneer,” “Market Exclusive” and “Industry Era.” These magazines apparently DO exist, but only for the purposes of selling feature space to gullible vendors. Nobody actually reads them.Mark
I’ll add my own two cents on the topic of industry analysts. Coverage in their reports is another way to earn validation and reach your target market, especially in the B2B tech arena. Analysts’ services come with fees, although most do take a limited number of free briefings (generally accompanied by a pitch from them). Which ones are worth engaging and what are the costs? Read more about this in my post Cracking the Quadrant.
It can be a challenge to navigate the field of paid PR opportunities. Hire an agency or in-house talent with knowledge in your space – those that can help you avoid wasted time and money and maximize your PR spend.