Clients often request that the articles we place for them in industry trade publications be more promotional in nature. By this they usually mean specifically naming their company and products within the article. However, many editors object to this and fortunately there are other strategies that can prove far more powerful than such a direct route.
Advertorials—that is, advertisements disguised as journalistic content—are very common in some trade publications in Europe and other parts of the globe. On the other hand, most North American trade publications draw a very clear line between advertisements and credible content.
This was not always the case. For centuries, advertisements disguised as editorial content were quite common in the U.S. But that all ended fairly dramatically during the early part of the 20th century. At that time, a company used advertisements appearing to be authoritative articles to market their medicines as a way to treat and prevent tuberculosis and other serious diseases—all of which were incurable at that time.
A news reporter had these medicines tested in a laboratory and found that not only did these products not prevent the diseases in question; they sometimes actually caused the illnesses they were said to prevent. “Truth in advertising” laws were passed by Congress as a result of this incident.
So if advertorials that mention companies and products by name aren’t permissible, how can a PR/communications professional promote his or her clients? One of the most effective and credible strategies is referred to as “expertising,” which refers to placing articles from the client under the clients name, thereby turning the client into an industry expert.
Bylined articles have proven to be one of the most effective tools available for establishing credibility. This is because they showcase the client as an expert and a leader in the industry. Over time, these articles draw attention to the stature and strength of the expert’s company and helps differentiate it from competitors—just one more example of the powerful reach of PR.