Sometimes it can be a real challenge to discern which media placement opportunities are earned – and highly credible – and which are driven by profit or other “pay-to-play” mechanisms. Consider these tips to help vet opportunities that surface unsolicited – particularly if you are unfamiliar with a media outlet.
Survey the sender. Does the caller identify himself or herself as a reporter? There are no absolutes, but this may be a call worth taking. A “writer” or “editor” also is probably looking for meaningful content, but the lines are increasingly blurred between editorial and advertising roles. Proceed with caution if the opportunity comes from a “manager,” “producer,” “publisher” or “account executive.”
The most valuable news is always earned. Is someone offering to write a magazine article that profiles you or your law firm? Investigate the source. Chances are there’s a fee or some other catch. Some publishers require, in return, a list of your “vendors,” to whom they can try to sell advertising. Do you want a marketer emailing your clients and asking them to buy ads in a magazine? Probably not.
Who is calling whom? Legitimate publishers looking for thought-leadership analysis almost never approach attorneys they haven’t worked with before. These types of opportunities typically result from pre-existing relationships and proactive media relations efforts.
How will coverage be packaged? If you consider paying for a story, will that article run in the publication’s news section or a special advertising supplement (which could possibly be labeled as a “paid advertisement”)? Savvy readers recognize a paid placement and it won’t do much to lend credibility to you or your story.
Exceptions abroad. The practice of selling coverage is more common and even accepted in other countries, including the UK, where a number of high-profile legal publications are setting their sights on U.S. lawyers and firms with global practices. The best advice is to be sure you know who’s reading each publication. If it’s not your target audience, your marketing dollars are probably better spent elsewhere.
The bottom line is that, if an editorial opportunity sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Randy Labuzinski is a vice president with Jaffe PR. He can be reached at email@example.com.