You have heard the saying,
“You can’t buy publicity like this!” Well, some people
want you to think you can.
This game has been played
for years in some industry trade publications, and is
now coming to a media outlet near you – “pay to be
heard.” You may have been approached by a salesperson
offering you an exclusive opportunity to get your story
out to interested parties.
Whether it’s radio,
television, print or more exotic media such as in-flight
audio, a number of companies now offer pay-for-placement
media to corporations. These spots are sometimes thinly
disguised as “news stories” with interviews by an
“objective” third party reporter. This is another
example of the blurring of lines between news and
Some advocacy groups are
taking notice. Commercial Alert, a nonprofit founded by
Ralph Nader, has requested that the FCC look into
“embedded advertising” on television. A regulation on
the books since 1927 requires broadcasters to announce
when an ad is an ad, and the group wants this enforced.
The FTC has already paid heed on the Internet by
requiring disclosure of “pay-for-placement” search
What’s exactly wrong with
using “pay-for-placement” as a PR strategy? First of
all, canned presentations often look and sound like a
bogus infomercial – an obvious ploy that can backfire.
The credibility you would gain from a third party news
report is sorely lacking when an executive is instead
pitched a bunch of leading softball questions.
Second, these placements can
be pricey, with “appearances” liable to cost thousands
of dollars – money that could be better spent gaining
real press recognition.
So the next time you are
pitched one of these opportunities, ask yourself such
questions as “Does this fit into our communications
strategy?” and “Will this engender the type of publicity
and image we are seeking?”