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Clear the Air on Vendor Submissions - 2/16/2010 -

Protect your publication's integrity by establishing solid guidelines for vendor-bylined editorial.

By Carla Kalogeridis

WITH SO MANY ASSOCIATION PUBLICATIONS DESPERATE FOR ADVERTISING AND SPONSORSHIP DOLLARS, it is tempting to make "package deals” with advertisers that include a promise of editorial coverage. In such cases, any writer worth his or her salt can find a good story angle that will work within your association's editorial guidelines for non-promotional material. In fact, an experienced association journalist with integrity doesn't even need to be told to keep such coverage non-promotional in nature.

But, what do you do when the advertising deal includes the promise to publish a vendor by-lined article? What's needed is a specific set of guidelines—you could call them FAQs for Vendor-Submitted Articles—that can help alleviate questions and concerns regarding vendor by-lined editorial. Here are several points that many associations have found useful when crafting such guidelines:

  • Article submission is open to all members, provided articles are non-commercial and non-promotional in nature.
  • Vendor-submitted articles should be educational and resourceful to the association's primary constituency. This does not mean educational about a vendor company's specific products, technologies, or services. Rather, vendors might elect to write about industry trends or current and potential industry challenges. Industry forecasts and predictions—backed by data and quoted expert opinion—are also of interest.
  • Advertising in one of our association's publications is not a prerequisite for article submission. This association does not swap editorial for advertising.
  • The association reserves the right to refuse to publish an article, if the article is deemed commercial or promotional in any way. The association editor may or may not ask for a revised submission at his or her discretion.
  • A commercial article is described as any content with a focus on the writer's or a specific company's product, technology, or service.
  • Technology trends articles may be admissible, as long as they represent a thorough discussion of all major technologies available in the segment being covered. Technology trends articles should not be submitted without a prior conversation with the association's editor as to the nature of acceptable content in this area.
  • Vendor authors are welcome to submit photography, charts, graphs, and other visuals to accompany the article, which will be used at the sole discretion of the association editor.
  • Cover stories and feature articles are reserved for our association's primary constituency only. Suppliers, vendors, service providers, and consultants will not be featured on the covers of our association's publications.
  • No vendors will be permitted an article insertion in two consecutive issues, unless the article is part of a series. The association editor must approve the series "concept” before the first article in the series is published. The association reserves the right to cancel the remaining articles in the series at its discretion.
  • An "about the author” statement will be included at the end of the vendor-submitted article and will include the author's name, title, company, and one form of author contact information (e.g. telephone, email, Twitter address.) The company's website will not be included in the "about the author” statement; neither will any information describing the company's products, services, or status in the marketplace.
  • If questions arise regarding any of the above guidelines, a vendor is welcome to submit an outline or rough draft of the article to the appropriate association editor for feedback. Any "pre-approval” by one of the association editors (or staff member) does not guarantee that the final article will be accepted for publication.

While you certainly do not want to build an entire publication with vendor-bylined content, many associations find it mutually beneficial to offer vendors, suppliers, consultants, service providers, and non-member experts the opportunity to publish content in the association's publications on a controlled basis. Hopefully, the guidelines above will help you craft a simple set of rules to pave the way for a harmonious pathway between vendor authors and association editorial staff.

Carla Kalogeridis is editorial director of Association Media & Publishing. Follow her on Twitter @CarlaKalo. 


 

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