Positive news/video coverage of your business or practice in the news media, either local, specialized, or national, can have incredible return on investment. It may be wrong to say the coverage is free — because you generally need to put effort and resources (and often paid professional support) to work to achieve results, but you don’t generally pay the media outlet for your publicity.
My views on this topic are decidedly conflicted in part because, as a publisher, I earn my income from advertising (and paid editorial) coverage. How do I feel, then, about giving the best stuff away for free . . .?
The answer, on one level, is: “Journalistic integrity to hell . . I’m running a business, and if a for-profit organization wants free publicity within my company’s publications, then, sure, why shouldn’t I refer the inquiry to the advertising department to set it up as a paid feature.
But if everything we did was at that level, our publications would have no credibility or effectiveness for the paying clients, and in any case, as much as I like it when organizations pay for their publicity, there’s so much need for worthwhile content that most of the published words on our websites are indeed “free publicity”.
But that contradiction leads to the equation of whether or not your editorial submissions will be accepted for publication, or punted to the advertising department. Here are the three pillars on the decision.
- How much value is the news you are providing to the reader/community compared to your own business? If you have competed a job and wish to brag about it, my reaction is “so. . .” If you have just won a major project, however, the story is different — because subtrades and suppliers might be able to get in on the action. They care.
- How easy do you make it for me to give you publicity? Is your news release/announcement well written, with factual details and not a whole lot of puffery. Can you provide appealing images or videos to go with the story?
- How good is your timing? If you submit your announcement when I’ve got dozens of others, you may find yours lands on the trash heap, when a week later I might use it. Unfortunately you can’t generally control this variable because the times when there are likely to be little competition (say between Christmas and New Years) are also likely to be times when few people will read your story, in any case.
If you think especially about the first two variables, however, you’ll increase your chances of success. There is no 100 per cent certain thing, and efforts to push the issue — such as phoning, or repeating emails., will just disqualify you under the second criteria — intrusive efforts take away my valuable time, and you aren’t paying me for it, are you?
Of course you can short-cut the risk and speed things up with some pay for play. I’m working on one of these files now. The client, knowing our systems, agreed to purchase a substantial advertisement but asked that the editorial content be published a month later. I’m willing to spend several hours conducting interviews and ensuring that the story is written to journalistic-style standards because I’m being paid.
But it’s also okay to go the “free”route. Just respect my time, the rules above, and remember that there is no publicity guarantee unless you are willing to put your money to work.