Should I Pay for Press Coverage?

Getting an interview in reputable publications is a great way to build your professional brand. Earning trust with customers is difficult, but if you’re interviewed in a publication they trust, boom—instant credibility. “Ok, Justin but should I pay for press coverage?” is the logical next question.

My answer? Heck no.

Earned Media VS Paid Media

There are two kinds of press coverage categories. Earned media and paid media. Paid media can be an advertisement but can also take the form of an advertorial. An advertorial is technically a paid ad, but takes the form of an article. There is a quite a bit of nuance here as well.

Forbes for example has a few different models. They have Forbes contributors who aren’t staff journalists, but are technically freelancers with their own portal access. Former guests of my show like Soulaima Gourani, and Will Burns have written pieces for Forbes in this capacity. Although previously, these were unpaid that recently changed. This model is generally a freelance model. Nothing new.

Forbes also has Forbes BrandVoice, however. Brands like Oracle can pay Forbes a fee to write for their audience. You can think of this as a polished advertorial section.

You can see from the screen capture to the right they disclose the paid nature of this program—but it wasn’t always this way. They used to minimize the paid nature of this content.

Entrepreneur Magazine also has a paid program called the Entrepreneur Leadership Program. In this program you pay $3000 per year, and they publish your articles on the Entrepreneur.com. Articles written by people in the “Entrepreneur Leadership Program” are disclosed as being in The Entrepreneur Leadership program, but not disclosed as a paid content. On their website, Entrepreneur states this fee is part of an application process, and content must adhere to editorial guidelines.

Earned media, on the other hand, is exactly what it sounds like. My clients have been interviewed in Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal to name a few, because the story idea was good, and the journalist wanted to write about it. My clients never pay for press coverage—they earned it.

Should I pay for press coverage?

“Should I pay for press coverage” is a question I get a lot, and while there are possible scenarios where it’s a great choice, my general answer is “no.” I say this for a few reasons, and keep in mind I’m speaking generally—there may be some exceptions based on unique scenarios.

Reason 1: Pay for pay is low quality content

Reason one on why you shouldn’t pay for press coverage is because the content quality is typically low. The people writing paid content aren’t generally journalists and don’t know how to write a compelling story a prospective customer would click. Obviously, if no one clicks you get no traffic. So, there’s no point.

Reason 2: People know it’s paid

Because paying for press coverage is typically disclosed (there are super shady websites that don’t disclose) customers generally take the advertorial with a grain of salt. Nothing undermines the credibility of even a great article, like the words “PAID PROGRAM” or “ADVERTISEMENT.

In many cases, an advertiser will sell based on a “quality backlink” to your website. Some of these click farms or content farms may have some good numbers on paper, and huge organic traffic however you’re in dangerous territory. Search engines are clear, if you pay for a backlink, it must be tagged as a sponsored link. If it’s not tagged, you risk getting on search engines bad side—good luck coming back from that. It’s a lose/lose.

Summary: Don’t Pay for Press Coverage. Get it for free

In summary, when someone asks me “should I pay for press coverage” I tell them to earn it for free instead. Yes, you can earn your own press and media attention. And you can download my free guide to get started—should only take you 10 days to get going.

The mistake most clients make is undervaluing their own story. They think they have nothing of value to share and they’re usually wrong. This is why you see inferior companies and inferior products being picked up in the news all the time. They took the time to build a story and pitched it. You sat on the sidelines.

headshot of Justin Brady

Hi, I’m Justin Brady. I amplify inventive companies (and their people) to new audiences by identifying and utilizing their customer’s trust channels. I wrote for The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post and I hosted the founders of Starbucks, Hint and Ancestry.com on my podcast.
Full Bio | [email protected] | Read about trust channels

Thank you for contacting me!