The Difference Between Earned Media and Paid for Media: Separating “Public Relations” from Everything Else


MediaSo, you want to grow your credibility through public relations initiatives and have your name in esteemed media outlets to leverage in your practice? Great! But, what constitutes as “credibility-building” PR, and what does not?

Test your PR knowledge. Here is a quiz to see if you can separate “earned” PR from every thing else!

True or False – Earned media is:

  1. Commercials. An advisor creates TV commercials and buys time in their local market.
  2. Staged interviews. An advisor participates in an interview style video recording to later have the video produced to appear like an interview to add to their site.
  3.  Infomercials. An advisor is featured as an expert on a financial topic and the video produced airs on a television station as a “paid for advertisement.”
  4. Radio shows. An advisor scripts and delivers a radio program and buys the airtime on a local station.

All of these are “False.” None of the above are “earned media,” and, while some can help to build awareness and credibility, some actually do the opposite. I’ve seen a recent trend of advisors who say they “appeared on ABC,” for example, but when you dig for a matter of 30-seconds you realize this was in the form of an infomercial. And, what’s worse, many of these infomercial production companies have tapped into the desire for advisors to have these “credibility enhancements” to use in their practice. Some go as far as purchasing airtime on behalf of the advisors in media markets nowhere near the advisors hometown; but, because it appeared on ABC at 2 a.m. in Cincinnati (while the advisor resides in Texas,) the advisor is using the “as seen on ABC” in their marketing collateral. This, unfortunately, has grown in popularity and is a recipe for disaster.

For those of you who have been in the industry for any length of time, you may remember that these kinds of misrepresentations sparked the “To Catch a Predator” on Dateline NBC. In the expose they uncovered many scrupulous activities by so-called “advisors,” but two, in particular, to take note of:

  • Advisors who claimed to be interviewed on a radio program, but were rather interviewed by a third party over the phone. They subsequently produced a CD of the audio interview and would send this to prospective clients as credibility enhancers
  • Advisors who’s image was on a fictional magazine publication sharing the cover with famed financial experts, such as Warren Buffet, for example

These misrepresentations of “earned media” have gotten advisors in a bit of trouble in years past, and it’s unfortunate to see a rise in such activities again. I’ve even seen people blatantly lying about being include in leading publications, and, when you do a Google search on the person, they’re nowhere to be found.

Advisor beware – I believe it’s just a matter of time before these misrepresenting activities come with some severe consequences. If you are interested in learning more about how to gain truly “earned media” showcasing your specialized financial knowledge and expertise, give me a call at (866) 888-5333 or email

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