imagesCAN1C8XPWe recently had a meeting with a potential client and were asked if we can “guarantee placements.” The prospect said he heard from a few other companies in our space that they had great relationships with top networks and stations, and they guarantee to run their content.  Well, we know what that really means.  But, many others not so close and passionate about issues like this might not.

Guaranteed placements means advertisement buy. Period. End of story.

Networks and stations don’t run stories just because of a “great” relationship. They run stories for two reasons:

1.       Because it is great content and a benefit to their listeners.

2.       Because they are paid to do so.

The very fabric of what we, News Generation, are made of is because of the former.  And, the latter is the very thread that unravels our industry.  Let’s call a spade a spade.  If companies are out there buying time, why not just admit it?  Why not just say it is an advertisement purchase and not a “guaranteed placement?”

When a client comes to us and asks “Can you guarantee a certain placement and usage rate with your services?” it starts a lot of discussions here internally.  Do others present the case that a ‘guaranteed placement’ is a public relations tactic that is different from earned media?  Are they so scared their content will not be accepted and used by newsrooms that they cower and go straight to this tactic?  We wanted to take this opportunity to really put the details out there and let our clients and prospects decide.

Earned Media

Guaranteed Placements

Money given to stations/networks



Story runs in news and public affairs programs



Content has strong credibility with reporters



Stations look to content providers for future story sources



There are many differences between guaranteed and earned placements.  The first and most important being that guaranteed placements are advertisements, where money is exchanged between service companies and stations/networks.  Second, earned media placements run in news and public affairs programming and guaranteed placements run between newscasts and in advertising segments.   Third, guaranteed placements have less credibility and less monetary value than earned placements, since they fall into a station’s advertising lineup, rather than its programming content.

We know where our clients want to be: within the content of news, public affairs and talk shows. That’s why we would never buy time on radio networks or stations.  Rather, we pitch reporters, assignment editors, morning show producers, and public affairs directors, and they determine whether to use a story in their newscasts or talk shows based on the content of the story and value to listeners; not because they are being paid to run it.  If a story would not stand up under the strict news criteria set by reporters, why do we call it public relations? Why not call it paid media or advertising?

Therefore, the placement or usage of a story depends on its news value, listener relevancy, and how it fits into the current news issues of the day.  As PR people, shouldn’t that be the creed we work under each day as we pitch the media?

Stay tuned…