Native advertising/advertorial and media publicity: Two sides of the coin

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The latest issue of Ontario Construction Report. There's independent editorial content, but also advertorials/native advertising here.

Generally, in writing this blog, I try to manage the story so that there isn’t a conflict between the words here and personal self-interest. This is especially relevant when it comes to paid publicity, or advertising, since 95 per cent of my business income arises from advertising sales.

Today is an exception, because it is an opportunity to explain my editorial publicity values and systems.

Much published advertising, frankly, is expensive and ineffective. Conversely, free positive editorial publicity is a gold-mine. Your reputation soars and you can share the word of your success with the multiplier power of an effective third-party testimonial (or testimonials) broadcast widely to your intended market.

The problem with free positive publicity is you generally can’t control how and where it happens. You can certainly encourage it with best practices in your news media relationships and news release publication styles, but generally you are capturing a fleeting star. ROI for a solid media relations/communications strategy will far exceed a conventional advertising budget, but there are real issues in managing the timing and sequencing of your message.

There is a middle ground; the advertorial or online “native advertising” model. Here you pay for your publicity and have control over when it is published, just like regular advertising, but it is published in a format that appears to be close to regular editorial content. If you look closely, you’ll find a “sponsored” reference in the publication/website/social media outlet, and I expect most readers can quickly sense when a story is purchased rather than generated through independent editorial guidelines.

Related to this model, over the last few years increasingly we’re offering a full package service to certain contractors and businesses wishing reliable publicity. They purchase a regular set of display/banner ads in our websites and online publications, knowing as well that their news releases will always be flagged for positive attention.

In practice, here is how this works:

Quite often, businesses wish to announce they’ve hired a new  person for a management role within their organization and send us news releases. If the business is one of our advertisers, we will edit the announcement to conform to our editorial standards/guidelines and publish it. For everyone else, we will set a much higher newsworthiness threshold.

(If you hired Stormy Daniels to become your regional office manager or a certain New York lawyer named Michael Cohen to be your legal counsel, we probably would publish the story regardless of whether you are an advertiser or not.)

The general guideline for free publicity is this: Is the news of significantly greater value/interest to the readers at large than your commercial self-interest. If it is, we publish. If not, we ask the second question: If you are doing this for your commercial self-interest, what about ours! This is why we’ll generally publish stories about new starts and project opportunities — because of the downstream opportunities for trades and suppliers — and rarely publish “completion” stories, unless they are exceptionally important. And when we receive word of an award or recognition, we’ll check to see if there are many other awards issued at the same time; and if so, will discount the individual notice unless we can publish ALL of the winners.

You might be wondering as you read this: “What about editorial integrity?” To that, the answer is simple — we, like you, are operating a business and in our case, the most valuable service we provide generally we cannot charge a fee to provide. This is not right.

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