“We would like to feature your company in the next edition of our brilliant journal, which has 250,000 readers.” Sounds good. “We will interview your Managing Director, write the article ourselves and even provide you with the opportunity to check it.” Still sounds good. “There is no charge…we simply require a list of your suppliers, who we will contact to see if they would be interested in supporting the article with articles and advertising.” No charge, you say?

This is the kind of ‘opportunity’ provided directly to my clients on a regular basis. Thankfully they have all been around the block a few times and tend to pass any offers like this by me, which gives me a chance to evaluate each one, before offering my advice, which more often than not is to pass on it. But why? It’s free. Well if it sounds too good to be true then it usually is.

Before accepting such an offer there are some important considerations. Is the publisher credible and is the magazine actually read? Do you trust that the ‘huge’ circulation actually exists? Is that circulation statement backed up with an audit of some sort? Is the editorial content of a type and quality that people on a mailing list will actually take the trouble to read it? If no one receives the material or ever reads it, there is absolutely no point in proceeding, no matter how little time you need to spend on the project.

And you will need to spend some time – organising your MD, providing background material, reworking the draft text, checking and rechecking the proof, sourcing and supplying images. OK, so some of this might not take as long as if you had to write the material yourself and then pitch it to a magazine, but getting useful press coverage was never easy to achieve, which is why PR companies exist in the first place.

A decent PR and advertising company can provide good advice on the credibility of the publisher and the magazine. Often these journals have the ‘right’ title or are similar to an existing, very creditable journal, so they seem attractive on first glance but maybe less so on a more detailed inspection. Your PR company can also evaluate the quality of the magazine, which is often centred around ‘vanity publishing’ type articles. You know the kind of thing, ‘Our company is great and this is what we sell’. This might be what you want to tell the world, but consider the reader. With limited time available, readers are very discerning and want to learn something from an article – maybe about best practices or ways to make savings or improve efficiency. Shallow, self-promotion isn’t read.

Another issue that should not be overlooked is the request for a list of suppliers. That request might seem relatively innocuous, but the decision to provide that information should be carefully considered. Obviously trade journals survive, by and large, from the funds generated through advertising and this is why they need this list – a fresh source of potential advertisers to approach, many of whom may be swayed by the chance to promote themselves to their customer.

There is nothing wrong with that, but it is not always the only reason they might be swayed. Initially a letter endorsed by the featured company informs the supplier that an article is being published with a suggestion that you might want support it with advertising. Sales calls – and I have been on the other end of one myself – can then be rather pushy. Certainly one salesman I spoke to recently was not averse to putting pressure on by implying that the featured company might be less than impressed with my client if they chose not to support the feature with an advert and he would be going back to the company to inform them.

I am pretty certain that never happened, but have no fear. The marketing manager of the featured company will be fully aware that if the magazine in question is suitable to promote his or her own company’s products, that usually means it doesn’t have the right readership for the supplier. They also know everyone’s marketing budget and strategy is different, so would never expect a company to advertise just because there was an article about their company in a magazine.

So despite the offer being of free editorial it’s a good idea to consider, is it really worth your time? Do you really want to expose your trusted suppliers to pressurised selling? And finally, if you go ahead, you effectively endorse the magazine, thus perpetuating the whole scenario.

Written by Cherie

Cherie is the finance director and co-owner of HHC Lewis. As well as overseeing advertisement bookings for all our clients, Cherie pays our wages each month, so we think she is the greatest.
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