Public relations firm warns business against solicitations by people falsely claiming to be reporters or editors seeking to cover their company.
At first it appears to be good news for many business owners. A caller tells them their business has been selected to be featured in a national business magazine or on a program that will air on a national television network. The publications or programs usually have important sounding names such as America’s Best Leading Business Innovators and Leaders or Dynamic American Business Leaders of the 21st Century. The television programs are sometimes hosted by well-known personalities. How could anybody pass up such an opportunity? Those calling use titles from the journalism profession – producer (the off camera reporters and supervisors of television programs) or editor. But these salespeople are not journalists. What they are selling is an opportunity for a company or its suppliers to pay for an article in a magazine or on a cable television program.
“Our business clients report receiving dozens of calls each year from companies making this type of sales pitch,” said David Margulies, president of the Margulies Communications Group a leading public relations firm based in Dallas. “Their excitement usually fades pretty quickly when we tell them that the publication will expect to be paid for the story or wants to solicit the company’s vendors for advertising.”
The bottom line is that real journalists do not charge companies they write about for the privilege of appearing in their publications. Real journalists do not call a company and ask to speak to the CEO so they can “learn more about the organization.” Business publications do not ask for lists of an interview subjects vendors so they can solicit them to advertise in the publication next to the article about their customer.
“A salesperson for one of these publications recently told me that she gets her leads from business directories and that approximately three in 100 people solicited actually agree to an article,” says Margulies.
The problem is that the publications are “controlled circulation” meaning that they are sent to people who have not paid to subscribe to them. The television programs often run in the middle of the night as paid programming on cable channels.
“Business people who are solicited for this type of publication should realize that articles in obscure publications and programs that run in the middle of the night on cable television have little or no credibility in the business community,” says Margulies.
Companies that want recognition that is unfiltered by journalists (who tend to ask tough questions or sometimes profile competing companies) can purchase advertorials from legitimate business magazines. These paid advertisements appear within respected business publications that go to paid subscribers. They are also clearly labeled as paid content and are presented in a different typeface and layout style to separate them from the publication’s actual editorial content.
In addition, there are numerous opportunities for positive media coverage in the thousands of legitimate trade publications, newspapers, web sites and magazines that are published each year in the United States and abroad. Business owners should consider all their options before making a bad investment in an article or program of little or no real value.