I have been asking friends who are in public relations (based in other countries) if the great divide between advertising and editorial is indeed getting more and more blurred or is it just me, struggling to understand the integrity of some of the local media.
The problem has always existed but recently, it seems to get worse as more and more competing publications pop up, vying for the attention of advertisers and consumers in our small country in Singapore.
I am sure I am going to get some “concerned” emails after this post from some of my wonderful local media friends who are reading this blog but I am open to hear some thoughts.
Here, I am not even debating about the difference between advertorials and editorials, I am just looking at how some media are asking us, PR consultants to get our our clients to advertise in their publications before they even consider our pitches. And here, I am talking about newsworthy stories that we crafted but got rejected because our poor clients do not have enough advertising budgets to spread across all key media.
It sounds unbelievable? “Where is journalistic integrity?” you ask and it’s the exact question I am pondering over.
Some common comments I got from journalists:-
– “oh, your client is a competitor of one of our biggest advertisers, so even though it’s a new launch, it is not nice for us to feature it. Even if we do, can’t do it too big” and that usually ends with “ask your client to advertise with us! then we can maybe do this and this and that too..”
I wonder what is the root of this problem. Is it the need to survive, profit pressures, thus causing publications to try push and increase ad sales by any means? It is not that bad if the question on ad buys comes from the sales folks but we get that from editors and writers/ journalists as well!
Perhaps, the companies/ marketers have a part to play too. The understanding of the difference between advertising, PR/ editorials is all confused. Every other day, we have clients telling us “I’ve already bought ads in XX publication, please ensure we get some editorial coverage in that publication.”
Because of that increasing pressure, and despite endless explanation to clients that it does not quite work that way, PR folks are getting tired and some gave up and went to the media and said, “well, our clients bought these ads in your publication, you should support us by featuring this and this…”
At the same time, I am also observing the blogosphere and how some bloggers are blogging endlessly about their “sponsored” gadgets and would only blog about restaurants who advertise on their blogs.
Again – the blurred divide. But it’s a new space and there are alot of movements and changes, I shall have to keep on observing before more comments can be made.
Meantime, I have to start preparing myself for questions from clients asking ,“I spent $XX, can we get coverage of our latest product launch in the Christmas issues!?”
PS: maybe if the products are like the iPod Touch or the Nanos, there is absolutely no need to worry about getting editorial coverage in any Christmas supplements?