Press coverage – Editorial Vs Advertising
Getting press coverage of your business, product, service or charity can seem like a daunting prospect, and the temptation may be to pay out for an advert instead.
While there is undoubtedly a place for advertising, it’s often wrongly viewed as the easy alternative to having an article about you in the editorial pages.
It may seem attractive: a chirpy advertising rep guarantees you a great spot in a newspaper or magazine for a terrific price and they’ll even design a snazzy advert for you. All you need to do is pay up and wait for the customers to start beating down the door.
No press releases to write, no struggling to persuade stressed-out, grumpy journalists to cover your story and absolute control on what is published and when. It does sound appealing.
But apart from the obvious downside – advertising can be costly – there are plenty of good reasons why getting a mention in the editorial pages is far more desirable.
In this post, I’m largely referring to advertising and editorial in local newspapers and magazines and what is best for small businesses and organisations.
What’s the difference between editorial content and advertising?
Put simply and crudely: You pay for advertising, but editorial space is free.
Editorial content includes news and features and is written by journalists who are either employed by a publication or work freelance.
News stories should be unbiased, written in the third person and may include quotes and photos. Features are more in-depth and may include the opinions of the writer (for example, restaurant or product reviews).
Advertisements are paid-for content and can be taken out by anyone from big businesses to individuals. They can be designed in-house by a publication or provided by the advertiser.
Prices depend on how big the advert is, where it is placed and whether it is colour or black-and-white – so a full-page colour ad on page 5 will be significantly more expensive than a quarter page black-and-white ad on page 54.
When is editorial content better than advertising?
It would be naive to say advertising is a waste of money. Great adverts sell products, increase brand awareness, get people talking about you and engage your customers.
Big businesses hire the world’s finest advertising agencies to create marketing masterpieces – think Saatchi & Saatchi’s T-Mobile flashmobs, Bartle Bogle Hegarty’s iconic Levi’s ads and the memorable Guinness commercials.
This is all well and good but most of us don’t have a spare few million quid to splash out on hiring the world’s top marketeers to design our ads and here is the problem.
If you’ve got an advertising budget of £500 and a local advertising rep offers you a spot for £300 it may sound like good value, but think carefully first. Will a rushed, poorly-designed and ill-thought out ad really do the trick?
Advertising sounds appealing because it guarantees you a place in a newspaper or magazine, but if all you can afford is a lowly ad on page 54 you really need to ask yourself if it’s worth it.
It’s not all about money, of course, and here is the key word: trust.
It is generally considered that editorial content is THREE TIMES more trusted than advertising – put simply, readers believe what journalists write more than what advertisers say.
News stories add much more authority, urgency and colour to anything an advertiser could come up with.
For example, if you’re a charity trying to raise money for a stray dogs home, you could blow your entire marketing budget on one advert. But hand on heart, would anyone even notice your ad? How would you make it stand out? Would it work?
Now imagine instead a news story about your charity. Think of the headline: “Canine crisis as dogs home runs out of cash,” accompanied by several photos. Imagine how it may look in the newspaper – spread out across the page rather than squeezed into a corner. What do you think would grab the reader’s attention more, the story or the ad?
Add to this the potential for free future publicity! Journalists need good stories, and if you’ve provided them with material in the past they’re likely to call on a quiet news week in search of a follow-up story. Imagine – they do all the work, and you reap the benefits.
Which brings me onto a whole new area – what makes a story and how do you get the media interested in what you want to promote?
I believe there is a good story lurking behind every business, charity or product – it’s just a matter of hunting it out. Forget what you’ve heard about the media not publishing stories which promote companies: if it’s a good story, they’ll run it.
Next blog: How to get the media interested in your business, charity, product or service, where you’ll find loads of tips on how to spot a great news story.