Identifying Editorial Scams

It happens 5-6 times a year (twice within the last month, which is the impetus for this article). I'll get an email from a client or one of their dealers/vendors, who has an "opportunity" for us that has been presented to a senior executive. It comes in one or two fashions:

  • This "magazine" wants to write free editorial for us... all we have to do is give them a list of our industry partners!
  • An article has been written on an industry partner of ours, and this media outlet is requesting we support them through advertising. Followed then by a high-pressured sales pitch.

In some ways, this is not that far removed from normal/practical media solicitation... in many cases, it makes complete sense that, if a media outlet finds it worthy to write an article on a subject, that its partners might be logical targets to solicit for media space. 

But there are a few tell-tale signs that, when taken as a whole, make it pretty clear as to what is an editorial "scam", and what is a legitimate editorial source (both B2B trade and mainstream).

  1. They circumvent marcomm/editorial contacts (internal or agency) and go straight to executives. Even if those editorial contacts are clearly listed in press materials and on the website.
  2. You're a major executive in an industry but you've never heard of the media outlet.
  3. They offer to write you free editorial, but then ask for a list of all your partners/vendors/dealers/etc. so that they can solicit them to "support" your free editorial.
  4. High pressure sales pitch to both you and your partners/vendors
  5. "Digital only" properties that claim they go out to hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of folks (again, if they were that impactful of a media outlet, why has no one in your inner circle ever heard of them?) Those "digital only" impressions go to junk email boxes and spam folders.
  6. There's no website for the actual magazine, just a link to a publisher's site...
  7. When you investigate the publisher's site, it's very low traffic and clearly only aimed at sales.
  8. Very glossy production... looks like a high-end coffee table magazine... but again, is only digital. 

Be on the lookout for this... and know that they know to go to C-level executives first and flatter them knowing that young and impressionable marketing folks will be powerless in the face of a request from a senior executive...

There's a reason that many of these "publishers" change their names every couple of years... people start catching on. But not enough folks have caught on because there are still enough marketing departments relenting and saying "OK"... if we all learn to say "NO", eventually these business practices will go away. 

And to all the young PR and marcomm folks out there... know this, and have the tenacity to stand your ground with clients and senior execs when presented with this kind of opportunity. No one knows the editorial universe you work and play in better than you. If something seems fishy, say so.


Provided by: Bill Elverman, Vice President and Director of Public Relations, PKA Marketing