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Column: The line between editorial and advertorial is becoming blurred
By Stephen Murdoch
Editorial is unpaid. Advertorial is paid. Simple, yes? Try again.
Prior to websites and blogs, public relations practitioners spent countless hours pitching their stories to newspapers, long-lead publications, radio stations and television stations. When it came to covering what was newsworthy, reporters were more than eager to speak with the designated spokesperson about X, Y and Z.
Now, imagine having to not only secure the interest of the reporter, but also receive consent from the advertising department for said media outlet. For those working in public relations, this is quickly becoming a reality.
Recently, I secured an interview for a client on a regional television station in Canada. My media contact was more than pleased to have my client on for a demonstration and a chat as to what was happening at his attraction.
Fast forward one week later, and the interview opportunity was taken off the table. Why? The advertising department had tried - and failed - to sign an advertising deal with the client and were uneasy about having someone on air who had yet to spend a dollar of their budget on advertising with the aforementioned television station.
There used be a great divide between the advertising and editorial departments of media outlets; they operated in separate silos and never the twain shall meet. But those days are gone. At the end of the day, the media is a business - and it's a tough business. Revenues are drying up, falling year after year. It makes good business sense to leverage earned media opportunities with a paid advertising buy.
But while it may be a shrewd business move, it is a new challenge for public relations practitioners. This is the new reality in which they work as they clamour to secure media coverage for their client's newest product or event.
And while not all media rooms and advertising departments for every media outlet conduct business in such a manner, it will become a weekly, if not every day, occurrence. So, what does this mean for public relations practitioners?
Communicate with your media contacts. Public relations practitioners need to educate themselves on the nuances of each media outlet. How? Speak with your media contacts. If your media contact receives push-back from advertising, encourage open dialogue. Share the intel with your client. Ask them to put the media outlet on their radar for a future ad buy, if there's a fit.
Educate your client. How? Let them know they may face this reality today or tomorrow. Your client needs to understand that media is a business. And as such, they too, need to bring revenue in to pay their reporters and keep the lights on.
Educate yourself. You will benefit from knowing your client's advertising strategy. With awareness of their media buy you can better target potential media outlets for coverage, and better leverage your pitches to journalists.
Broaden your horizons. It is a rapidly changing media world, and a byproduct of this evolution is more channels from which you can share your client's story. No longer do we have to rely on the traditional mainstream media. There is always a home for interesting, engaging content and with the World Wide Web literally at your fingertips you have a multitude of options for sharing that content.
Stephen Murdoch is vice-president of public relations for Enterprise Canada and a part-time instructor in the post-graduate PR program at Niagara College. Twitter: @canadianprguy