Why you can’t control editorial

If you want 100% control over what appears on the page then buy an add.

Editorial or media coverage either in print, radio, online, tv or video comes with a risk.  Despite many lifestyle PRs seeing famils as a ‘free holiday’ or samples as a free gift the journalist is under no obligation to a) write about you or b) write positive things about you.  Trust me, if it was a holiday I’d be away with my friends not having lunch with tourism marketers, even if it is on a sandy beach with a branded umbrella cocktail.

What you can control is how the journalist is treated while on a famil and the relationship you have with that journalist.  You can direct the journos eyes to the strengths in your product, the newsworthy angles and show them the best that you offer.

I once stayed in a super swanky ski in ski out Aspen abode who thought it enough to give me a bed for the night. Breakfast for journalists it would seem was not included. Yet a buffet breakfast is the cheapest thing a hotel can actually offer, it’s on the table already.

Sadly for me the Aussie dollar was not at parity during this time, far from it, breakfast for me would work out to be AU$50 plus.  So I took myself out of their hotel every morning and sought out alternative breakfast options.

I found a fantastic coffee spot called Victoria’s that served real proper barista style coffee just like home with fresh baked muffins, all for under ten US dollars.  I also found the Austrian styled diner that the ski instructors descend upon for five dollar oatmeal with brown sugar and cream each morning and the bakery with fresh gluten filled goods and a line down the street.

What did I write about? The best breakfasts for under ten dollars in Aspen.  When I was informed that the hotel I was staying at served the best gourmet breakfast in town it was too late.  The story was done and dusted.

Sure, I wrote about them in other publications but if they’d shown me breakfast my under ten dollar story may have turned into best breakfasts, the most important meal of the ski day.

Even when a story does run about your product you still don’t have control over what is says and when it runs.   Sub editors play havoc with my copy, some for the better some for the worse and they don’t always run it passed me. So even if I have written glowing truths about your property the sub editor may have taken upon his/herself to edit out the important stuff to fit a lowered word count becaus an add is now booked for half the page of a full page article I was commissioned for.

As a freelancer once I have handed in my copy it is up to my editor when they choose to run it.  There’s no point sending demanding emails to me ranting and raving about how it makes you look bad to your client that the piece hasn’t run.  It’s up to you to manage your clients PR expectations, not me.  It is up to me, however, to get paid and if my piece is pay on publication then it’s also in my interests that the piece runs earlier and trust me, if it hasn’t run yet it’s not from my lack of trying.

Editorial placement is a long term investment while an add is immediate.  It may take a number of interactions over months before a journalist writes about your brand or your client but the reason they did was because you put that brand or product in front of them.

I have had some folks request copy approval on my story as if I was working for them, not my editor or publisher.  Sure, you can have copy approval if you pay me to write your story, then I’m a copywriter not a journalist and your story is advertorial not editorial.

One young buck once tracked down my home number and rang me after 9pm to complain about a feature I had in The Bulletin magazine.  I had spent twenty minutes on the phone to him a few weeks prior to get some background info for a story. The story ran, it featured his business.  Two weeks later I ran another story that his company may have been appropriate for but I chose to write about others that were  more appropriate.

I received a tirade down the phone and my publisher received a complaint letter. What did he receive?  A media blackout from me for life yet I write about the very thing he wants promoted.  All because he thought he could control the editorial.

There endeth today’s lesson.

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