“pay to play” not OK when quality of writing suffers
→The other day we received an email from the editor of a local publication, curtly letting us know that our PR clients would no longer be considered for their publication because they hadn’t spent any advertising dollars. If said editor had taken the time to share her perspective in a thoughtful manner, I might have been empathetic to her point of view. But as it happened, she laid her words out in a way that made us feel like we had failed at our job. Which, if we were in ad sales, would be a legitimate complaint.
However, as PR professionals, we aren’t responsible for an editorial publication’s bottom line. Though we often do make recommendations for media buys, and create both copy and graphics, our primary function is to obtain EARNED, third-party editorial for our clients.
As a former editor/reporter, I’ve been involved in many rounds of sales vs. editorial tug of war. Sometimes we won; sometimes they won. Through it all, the quality of writing/coverage didn’t suffer because we all understood the value of providing first-rate content. Which at the end of the day, is really what we journalists get up in arms about.
Any time someone pays for a story or mention about their business, they’re going to request to see copy before its printed/published. I am all for fact-checking; it would be impossible to retain that “first-rate” status without it. But when changes are requested that turn good writing into bad, it’s a lose-lose for everyone, including readers.
Obviously, I’m having a couple different conversations here, but my point remains the same: good writing is not getting the respect—or time—it deserves. Case and point, Why Good Writing Matters, Even (and Especially) Online, which offers perspective on the impact of high content demand on the written word. There are plenty of bloggers out there who surely have an opinion, so please feel free to start a chat here by commenting.
And for the rest of you editorial flag waivers, Jeff Sonderman‘s How news organizations can sell sponsored content without lowering their standards will restore your faith in journalism, as well as provide a few pointers for providing quality over quantity.