PR is worth its weight in gold. Those trying to cheat the system do us all a disservice

A fair bit has been written recently about companies allegedly buying their way into leading publications like Forbes, Fast Company and Huffington Post by essentially bribing journalists to name drop their brand. It is a worrying development for our industry.

It has been possible to buy your way into leading publications for a long time now through advertorials and sponsored posts, fashionably known as ‘native advertising’. But this type of coverage has always tried to be clear on its obviously paid for nature. Whether readers take them seriously once they realise they are paid for is another question.

This is where the strength and value of PR has always come in. Earned media coverage from reputable and well-read media publications has always been worth its weight in gold. The ability of PR agencies and communications consultants to break into these publications has been our raison d’être.

Some have labelled the methods the public relations industry has used to achieve results as ‘dark arts’. This conjures up visions of Lord Bell in a smoky office in the 1980s picking up the phone to call in a favour from an old editor friend. However, I think the days of ‘just knowing the right people’ are largely over. Nowadays the skill of a PR consultant is to support content marketing by crafting engaging stories, understanding markets, media, trends and needs.

Earned media is the gold standard

Good contents are the gold standard (Source: Unsplash)

That’s why I am troubled by any reports of journalists accepting bribes. There are new business prospects in the market who want the PR agency to secure coverage in influential titles by buying their way into these publications. Do not get me wrong: It is entirely O.K. to buy ad space and we even recommend it to clients who have very little time or certain marketing goals. But it is worrying to see PR agencies that are willing to engage with clients on the basis of fake coverage.  Advertorial and sponsored posts clearly have a place, but truly earned media is still the gold standard.

I am certain that fake coverage is not a widespread problem, at least not with classical editorial media. But we all work for the reader’s loyalty and trust. Without readers the advertising income would cease to exist, so journalists must tread carefully. For a publication to be successful, readers, journalists and advertisers and agencies must co-exist in a transparent and mutually beneficial manner. Let’s keep it that way!

If you have any questions, or are looking for a transparent agency partner who prides itself on earning great client coverage the right way, drop me an email: Alastair.mccormick@akima.co.uk

Alastair McCormick

Author Alastair McCormick

UK Country Manager with more than 6 years experience across B2B tech and corporate comms. Before joining Akima, Alastair worked for two of the world’s largest networked PR agencies in London consulting high profile clients on strategic communications, thought leadership, media relations, international account management, campaign development and execution, event coordination, analyst relations, crisis comms and digital strategy.

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