Paid Editorial is Not a Thing - How to Be Included in a Story

There is no such thing as paid editorial. To understand what we mean by that, first, check out Chea’s post on “The Blurred Lines with the PEO Model,” and then check back in to this blog post.

Welcome back! Paid editorial is not a thing. As the year is coming to a close, I have been reading through many media kits and having conversations with clients about paid content. What I have learned is that there seems to be some confusion about how a brand is included in a story, i.e. earned media.

Brands can be included in a story two ways, proactively and reactively. Proactive can be the result of a press release, pitching and editorial calendar development. An example of this is a current Food & Wine story featuring Great Divide Brewing Company’s Hibernation Ale. We reached out to Markham Heid and asked him if he was working on any winter seasonal beer roundups. We never would have known that he was working on a perfect story for one of our clients if we hadn’t asked.

Reactive involves the journalists reaching out to the brand directly. The journalist is assigned a story, in this example we will say the best gifts for the foodie in your life, and they begin researching items to include. They may look for the brands with the top reviews in recent media coverage, they may be looking for something unique and different, or they might be looking for something from a specific region. Upon narrowing down their list, they reach out to the brands and request sample for their own review. This was the recent experience for The Real Dill. NBC’s Today Show reached out for samples to feature in their ultimate foodie gift guide.  


In both of these situations, the only thing the brand had to pay for was the sample and shipping. If the journalist received the product and did not favor it, there is a chance that it would not be included.

If a negative experience does happen between media and a brand we represent, we will be honest and direct about this feedback. This is the best way to objectively look at your brand to review areas of improvement because let’s face it, everything is a work in progress.

So how can you tell the difference between earned and paid media? Print publications will sometimes offer paid editorial coverage, also known as an advertorial or sponsored content. These advertisements look like stories, but in fact they are not. Somewhere in the piece it will call out that this article is paid or sponsored content.

Advertorials and paid content, especially in today’s landscape of social media influencers, is a great addition to your marketing plan. Paid and earned are both needed to help your brand grow, but remember that you cannot pay a journalists to have a positive opinion of your brand. They will be objective in their feedback, but if you are putting the best product out there, then you have nothing to worry about. Quality and consistency is key in growing a success brand.