- Posted by Adam Smith
- On 10/03/2021
Navigating the media – whether print or online – can be a minefield, especially if you’re unfamiliar with how journalists operate, which is why people employ a PR agency or consultant to help them.
Most of the clients we work with are keen to get their press releases placed in a variety of publications for two main reasons; to gain exposure and increase sales. It’s rare to find anyone who isn’t hoping to achieve one or the other, or both.
One of the conversations we regularly have with clients is whether they have any advertising budget to support their campaign or are hoping to secure earned editorial, i.e. coverage based on the strength of their stories.
When working with a new client we always highlight the distinction between editorial and advertising and how this will impact on their desired outcomes because it can become a source of confusion at a later stage.
What is earned editorial?
First off, it’s important to stress that in order for a press release to have any chance of being picked up, their needs to be a genuine story behind it, and it’s the same with case studies.
It doesn’t have to be front page news, but there should be a newsworthy an ‘angle’ to the release other than ‘we’re a really good company, now write about us’.
If there isn’t, journalists will see this straight away and you’ll be banging you’re head against a brick wall trying to secure coverage.
Now, assuming your press release is newsworthy, don’t presume that it’ll be published verbatim, no matter how many hours you’ve spent liaising with your PR agency/consultant to create the perfect prose with every i dotted and t crossed.
The journalist might spot a different angle in the story that they prefer and rewrite the whole piece so that when it’s published it bears no resemblance to what you signed off. They may use a snippet of your release in another story, or simply pull a quote from it for a comment piece.
Now, perhaps you’re unhappy with how the published result looks, and you’re worried that the emphasis used by the publication isn’t what you wanted them to focus on?
Welcome to the media!
Once a press release leaves your and your PR’s hands you no longer have any control over it.
This means there’s no guarantee that a) It’ll be published at all b) It’ll be published in the way you want it to appear c) It will include any of the key details you hoped would be kept in.
It’s important to understand that journalists are there to do their job as well, not just act as a mouthpiece for companies wanting a bit of free publicity. They need to get something out of the relationship, and this means a newsworthy story to run.
Sure, some of the scenarios we’ve mentioned are worst case and it’s often relatively easy to get good quality coverage as along as your press releases are presented in a way that minimises the work the journalist needs to do. This includes making sure the best angle is at the top, there are strong quotes contained within and, most importantly, there is a genuine story to tell.
If your PR agency follows these guidelines then you’ll soon be reaping the rewards of earned editorial, which by most people’s estimate is still far more valuable than paid-for advertising.
Which brings us nicely onto…
What is advertising and advertorial?
If you want to guarantee that your content appears word for word in a specific publication you’ll need to put your hand in your pocket and pay for advertising.
If you do this, most publications will agree to what’s known as ‘advertorial’ alongside your advert (or included within). This is content created by you or your PR which will be published exactly as supplied as part of the deal.
This can be advantageous if you don’t have a strong story, but you still want to tell people how good you are and why they should choose you over others.
However, the major disadvantage is that most people can see through advertorials and know that they don’t represent an independent view of company involved.
Worse still, they may not even bother looking at them or reading the content if it’s not a product or service they’re immediately interested in, which is a psychological leap away from how people respond to ‘news’.
Another big downside is cost.
You’ll have to pay the advertising cost for each publication you want to appear in, whereas with a press release you can send it to as many publications as you like and potentially secure coverage in all of them, all for the fee you’re paying your PR company. In most cases a press release is way cheaper than advertising.
Keep your eyes wide open!
In our view you should always try for earned editorial first if you’ve got a genuine story to tell.
Despite the reputation that some sectors of the media have, genuine editorial still carries far more weight than advertising. Done right, it will raise your profile and lead to more sales and enquiries, while being more cost effective.
Even if the editorial piece doesn’t appear exactly as you would have liked, editorial coverage is perhaps unique in the way it can add gravitas to your brand and improve potential customers’ trust in what you do.
You might even be lucky enough to get a link back to your company’s website included in the coverage which has the added bonus of working wonders for your SEO, although, like the content, this is never guaranteed.
Approach PR with your eyes wide open and accept there will be times when you have to take a little bit of rough with the smooth and you’ll have a happy relationship with the media (and your PR agency!).
If you’re looking for a PR Agency or PR consultant to write your press releases and content to help raise the profile of your business or brand, please get in touch for an informal chat. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07543 195476.