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Stop paying the price for ‘free’ coverage

By John Humphreys

“I hope you are well…”

The emails always follow the same format: “My editor has asked me to contact you…telephone interview…free of charge article…on your business’s success and plans for future growth.” It’s at this point my hand completes its journey to sound the klaxon for defcon one.

So what if you have the Barcelona Principles tattooed somewhere only the doctor sees? Who cares if you enjoy warming your hands in the afterglow of a classic @wadds rant about AVE? Chances are somebody somewhere in your workplace still gets a warm and fuzzy feeling when they see a multi-page spread focused solely on your organisation.

The piper, in this instance, is paid by way of providing a list of key suppliers’ details to the publication, so that they may “Offer them the opportunity to support the feature.” (A career in PR beckons…)

These ‘editorial assistants’ – they don’t quite have the gall to call themselves a ‘journalist’ – have been hoodwinking people the length and breadth of the country for a good few years now. It’s time it stopped.

The generic magazine titles are matched in anonymity by their obscure publishing house, located on the floor above Wernham Hogg. Their entire portfolio is infected with the blandest of title names, each aiming a parasitic tentacle at a vibrant, profitable industry: food production; manufacturing; construction; engineering etc.

It’s easy to dismiss these enquiries as a mere inevitability and an inconvenience: block the address and move on. But we have a duty of care to our organisation or client and also to our industry. If it wasn’t succeeding, it wouldn’t perpetuate. Our suppliers deserve better and bad coverage gives PR a bad name. And if that isn’t reason enough, media fragmentation and democratisation will necessarily invoke one question more than any other, when discussing your corporate reputation: “Says who?”

John Humphreys is Corporate Affairs Manager for Shepherd Neame Ltd

Image courtesy of pixabay

Posted in Editor's Picks, Public Relations
2 comments on “Stop paying the price for ‘free’ coverage
  1. Amy Wardlaw says:

    An extension to this – nominations for fake ‘award schemes’, where you have to pay to receive the award. The advantage for some being that you can claim the ‘award-winning’ title for vanity’s sake. Also get to appear in their free magazine.

    I wonder if more people might wise up to these schemes with the growing interest in fake news?

  2. Carole Scott says:

    My worst recently, was from one of the radio ‘editorial’ companies. The email chain went something like this, because I decided for once to call them out.

    Radio ‘editorial’ company rep: ‘We’ve been commissioned to create a big radio feature on x, which will be syndicated across heaps of fantastic radio stations, reaching so many eagerly listening people who are gagging for this feature. Your major brands would fit perfectly, would love to invite one of your experts on to the show that will be syndicated…’.

    Me: ‘presumably, this is a paid for opportunity – tell me how much it costs.’

    Radio ‘editorial’ company rep: ‘Oh, well, that all depends on what you want to do – what you want to focus on, how many people you want to reach etc…’

    Me: ‘I don’t *want* anything; you have just emailed me to say how much you’d like my company to field an expert for your show, so you need to tell me how much the opportunity would cost.’

    Radio ‘editorial’ company rep: ‘But I really can’t give you an estimate unless you let me know what you’d like to achieve.’

    At which point, I really couldn’t be bothered any longer to spell out the bleedin’ obvious to the guy yet again. I’m really sympathetic to the fact that he has a job to do and sales targets to meet but equally, be prepared if you’re going to get in touch!

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