Editorial integrity - the insider story
This really is a delicate subject as it asks the question of editorial integrity, which guarantees the bristling of any editor reading this. This piece, however, is more designed to explain the mechanics of publishing/media ownership for the benefit of the client rather than the media owner or marketing professional.
Clients rarely, if ever, realise that media owners are running a business too: they also have a corporate mortgage, mouths to feed and payrolls and other bills to meet. They are not some unpaid mouthpiece willing faithfully to reproduce any free snippets of PR that the client wants to send them. I’m drawing from experience here; ad manager in advertising space sales to media buying rising to media director. I understand how this works. Whilst the editor – quite rightly – decides what is written and published and also what constitutes a newsworthy story and what doesn’t. Given that media owners need, either in some part or entirely, advertising revenue, it is not inconceivable that should an editor devote many column inches, or web pages, to a particular client that, for whatever reason, chooses not to advertise, that a director with financial responsibility would suggest to the editor he/she curb their enthusiasm until such time the client helps ‘support’ the media owner by advertising. What clients regularly seem to forget, or are simply unaware of, is that the media owners have gone to great lengths to engage with a targeted readership/audience so that advertising revenue is most easily generated for the clients for whom that audience is a priority; easy, really.
A client legitimately could ‘try’ a medium through some form of press relations before committing advertising budget, but they should have a strong underlying story before doing so: referencing a notable client using their products or services would be a good start. Failure to do so would probably lead the editor to ignore their overtures as insufficient meat on the bone. The inevitable consequence would be that the client becomes disillusioned with the medium whereas it may actually have been the perfect one for their messaging. Never, in other words, launch any campaign without properly preparing first. On the other hand, if the client is ‘supporting’ the medium by advertising without any form of PR message, not only are they missing a trick if they have any news, but may well find the editor not quite so concerned about the meat on the bone scenario; marrowbone is good in this case.
So, dear sceptical client, rather than look at media owners as ‘the enemy’ whose only function is to syphon off your budget while delivering nothing, try looking at them as potential work-mates; partners who have gone to great lengths to engage the very audience to whom you want to sell. Better yet, use a marketing organisation that understands this and is quite capable of exploiting all opportunities for your benefit.