Here are some tips on
building your editorial integrity ó without leaving money on the table.
By Carla Kalogeridis
In an age of fake news and photo filters, association
publishers have a great opportunity to capitalize their trustworthiness with
members and the industry or profession they serve.
Journalism was once a noble profession. Today, we see a
story pop up on our news feed, and we view it with skepticism. Is this for
real? It sure looks real, but sadly, we know from experience that we can no
longer trust much of what we see. In the age of fake news and filters, itís
just too easy to be fooled.
The question is, how are you going to use this to your
Information is big business, and it seems every publisher
has an agenda ó unfortunately, reporting unbiased facts is not at the top of
the priority list in many cases.
But the association publishing world can stand apart. Most
associations put serving their members with the best information at the top of
their long list of initiatives. Access to high-quality, reliable information is
often the number-one reason a member joins, and we know this. We build our
strategic plans counting on it and committing ourselves to delivering on that
So, how can we preserve our brand as the most trusted source
for the industry or profession we serve ó without leaving money on the table?
Here are a few ideas that come to mind (and I know some of you may disagree
with one or two of them):
- DONíT put
an advertiserís ad within or opposite editorial content in which they are
featured. This is a tough one because sometimes the advertiser specifically
asks for it. If you canít create a policy or even style guide rule against it,
convince the advertiser that this is not in their best interest. Hopefully, you
are running the editorial content because it is valuable to the reader. The
advertiserís decision to support that content should not have had anything to
do with your decision. Therefore, why give the reader the impression that it
- DO offer
sponsored content opportunities. These days, some vendors and service
providers are investing more in research and original content than many
publishers. Give them the opportunity to present their thought leadership to
your members, and retain your editorial integrity by charging them for it ó
which leads to the next oneÖ
make it hard for the reader to differentiate between sponsored content or
native advertising and your editorial. Incorporate eye-stopping,
high-impact design in your sponsored content and native advertising ó just make
sure itís clearly labeled as such. Putting "sponsored contentĒ or "advertorialĒ
in 6-point light italic type somewhere obscure might make your advertiser
happy, but readers wonít like it if they feel deceived. Find a creative way to
clearly label content thatís not pure editorial.
- DO make
an effort to broaden your editorial sources. One of the best ways to build
credibility and respect among readers is to continually seek out new sources.
Yes, you have supporters that need to feel your love from time to time, but to
serve members and advertisers most effectively, you must preserve the integrity
of your brand by seeking out the small guys and up-and-comers who have fresh insights
and perspectives to give ó even though their pockets arenít yet deep.
- DONíT deny
an industry leader editorial exposure because they donít advertise. Do
whatís best for the story and what will bring the most complete information to
the reader. You can reward your supporters in other ways like priority booth
space or premium ad positions without an up-charge. Consistently putting the
story before politics will earn respect with your members and the industry you
serve ó respect that will eventually pay off in advertising and sponsorship
dollars, even if you canít trace a direct line to it.
- DO cover
your competitors. If another association or B2B plays in your space and
theyíve got a good event or conference, then attend it and cover it. Covering
the competition when they deserve it exudes confidence and integrity, and itís
another example of putting membersí information needs first.
sell your soul for a buck. Sometimes we offer editorial coverage to a
vendor or advertiser as part of a sponsorship package. Itís not pure
journalism, but it doesnít have to be a worthless puff-piece either. Be
selective with the editorial opportunities that you promise to sponsors. If
they werenít an advertiser, would they have been a preferred resource for the
article anyway? If you canít answer yes honestly, then fulfill your promise to
them in a different article where they are a legitimate, respected source. Your
readers will smell out a trade out from a mile away, and youíll lose the
credibility youíve fought so hard to build.
These are just a few of the ways that you can preserve your
brand and editorial integrity in a fake-news, filter-happy world. You may not
be the most popular one in the room when you stand your ground, but itís
important to hold what we do to a standard ó not only for the benefit of the members
and readers, but for the advertisers and sponsors as well. When your flagship
publication has a sterling reputation and deep respect in your industry,
Carla Kalogeridis is
publisher and editorial director of Association Media & Publishing. This
article was excerpted from her column that appears in Signatureís Dec/Jan 2017 issue. Signature is a benefit of membership in Association
Media & Publishing. Find out more about joining now.