The Truth About PR Coverage: Separating Real from BS

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Sorry, but that so-called “amazing” PR coverage is actually bullsh*t.

Listen up, because we’re about to pull back the curtain on some shady business that happens way too often in communications. Not all coverage is created equal. Entirely too many agencies are happy to pad their “results” with fluff that looks vaguely impressive on the surface but is, well, BS.

We believe in full transparency with our clients. That’s why we want to spill the tea on what actual PR coverage looks like vs. passing off low-quality placements as high-quality wins.

BS Newswire Services

Ah, newswires: the land of make-believe where services distribute your press release, and it magically appears on Yahoo! or USA Today.

Ever tried searching for your company directly on these sites after a newswire blast? You won’t find the release. Your news remains tucked away in a subdomain where announcements wither and die, far from readers’ eyes. This “guaranteed coverage” lives — often for only a short time — on these sites to increase your “viewership numbers” and inflate the perceived value of the newswire services.

Don’t get us wrong, newswire distribution has its merits:

Don’t let the sales folks at newswire companies fool you. Presenting these subdomain placements as equivalent to legitimately earned coverage from a discerning outlet or journalist is disingenuous. Your agency shouldn’t tout this type of coverage as equal to impactful earned media hits.

Pay-To-Play Profiteering

Dreaded pay-to-play “opportunities” prey on people’s desire for prestige. Have you ever received an email claiming you’ve been “shortlisted” for a publication’s awards program or that a TV show wants to “feature” your company?
Ask a simple question: Is there a fee involved? If the answer dances around the topic or leads to vague promises, congratulations! You’ve just unearthed a pay-to-play dumpster fire. If your agency only pursues this kind of coverage, it’s wasting your budget.

Save your cash for something meaningful because while the solicitations may name-drop well-known brands or even celebrities, the reality is usually an overpriced advertisement that organizations laughably try to pass off as earned media.
While some paid opportunities are definitely BS, others can help jumpstart the awareness-building process in certain instances. Beneficial examples include:

Remember: These paid opportunities inherently differ from event or conference sponsorships, which are more advertising than public relations.

A reputable public relations services firm should immediately identify the differences between valuable and BS pay-to-play options:

Ask your PR agency to make recommendations that actually support your communications goals.

AI-Generated “Coverage”

In today’s AI-everything world, AI rewrites news as quickly as you can say “artificial intelligence.” But as people and PR agencies get lazier, spotting AI-generated “news” should get easier — despite advances in AI writing tools.

Look out for sites with “journalists” “writing” hundreds of (potentially clickbait-y) articles daily or seeing the same formulaic story repeated across dozens of sites. You can also ID bogus outlets by checking out the unique visitors per month. Tier 1 publications will have a ton and “fake” pubs will have very few. The trick here is that some trade publications (especially in niche markets) will have low UVMs but attract the “right” visitors, so you still want to pitch to them. Learn more about the rise of AI and fake news sites and how to counteract them in this article.

A tip for your brand: Consider whether the reporter who “covered” your story ever reached out to your company. No? The likelihood of that reporter writing for six websites completely unrelated to your company’s niche and well outside of your geography opting to cover your announcement, especially without reaching out, is quite low.

While AI will likely play a bigger role in future news production, its unsupervised regurgitation of your own messaging doesn’t qualify as true earned media with any merit.

Measuring Real, High-Quality PR Coverage

We get it. You want to invest your hard-earned money into earning some legitimately impactful PR coverage because BS coverage stinks. But what does good coverage smell like?

Here are the signs to sniff out:

If your agency peddles any of the suspect tactics mentioned above, they’re unfortunately full of crap — and wasting your money. Reputable PR and integrated communications involve strategically securing positive brand mentions in highly trafficked media publications read by your target audiences.

Our proprietary formula — targeted tactics + timed touch points = repeatable results — lands real wins that drive actual results for our clients’ businesses.

Ready to earn legitimate PR coverage that creates impact beyond just visibility and placement?

Discover The Comprise Way® to earning real PR coverage

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