In the ever-evolving world of media relations, a notable shift has been taking place, reshaping the landscape of earned media. The fourth finding from the Public Relations Global Network (PRGN) survey sheds light on a growing trend that’s impacting organizations across the board: the increasing prevalence of pay-to-play in media coverage.
Shifting Towards Paid Opportunities
Traditionally, earned media has been viewed as the gold standard of PR — securing coverage based on the merit of news and stories alone. However, the PRGN survey reveals that a sizable number of media outlets now require financial compensation before agreeing to run an organization’s news. This trend is not limited to niche publications; even formerly reputable outlets are leaning towards paid sponsorships and engagements to generate revenue.
Survey respondents voiced their concerns, noting that “everything requires a paid component these days” and highlighting a greater push for paid models, especially at the trade and local levels. This shift has also affected consumer products, where an increase in pay-to-play practices has led to a decrease in organic promotional activities.
Considering these challenges, the implication for PR strategies is clear: there’s a need to consider adding strategic paid media into the communications mix. The stigma once associated with pay-for-play is diminishing, making it an acceptable, and sometimes necessary, component of a comprehensive media strategy.
For certain clients or industries, the likelihood of generating earned media without financial investment is slim. Some have found success through memberships in exclusive networks, like having a CEO join a Forbes Council of Experts, which, while paid, offers valuable exposure and credibility.
Broadening Communications Strategy
With the media landscape facing major shifts, it’s important for organizations to mix things up and get creative with their strategy. Broadening the approach to include digital marketing, influencer collaborations, paid social media, and other avenues is smart. Why? Because branching out into these areas isn’t just about dodging the pay-to-play hurdle; it’s about building a stronger brand presence across all the channels where your audience hangs out.
Digital marketing has become a game-changer. It’s all about reaching people where they spend a ton of their time—online. And with the right approach, you can get super targeted, making sure your message hits the mark with the exact crowd you’re aiming for.
As we navigate through the changing dynamics of media relations, the rise of pay-to-play practices serves as a reminder of the importance of adaptability and innovation in PR strategies.