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Editorial Charges and Separation Requests

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In the USA payment for editorial is rare, but in many parts of the world it is commonplace. Over the last decade separation charges, service charges or handling charges as they are often called, have become more common in UK media. Here is a simple way to deal with editorial charge requests.

Ten Things You Should Do

  1. Live and let live. Media owners cannot survive on the prose provided by public relations companies or in-house PROs, however good it is. Many media outlets would not exist based on the revenue gained from the notional cover price alone. Advertising is their life blood and someone has to advertise to sustain the media. Therefore, treat all requests professionally and politely.
  2. Keep news values prominent in your editorial. If material sent for publication focuses on news values, rather than self praise, there is less scope for the editor to think someone is after ‘free’ publicity.
  3. Budget. If a campaign does have a strong product focus and you know it will attract charge requests then decide at the outset to allocate a suitable budget to cover some charges. The likely source for this funding is the advertising budget.
  4. Treat all supported editorial as advertising. Whatever name it is given – separation charge, handling charge, administration charge and so on – if space is being allocated in exchange for payment then it is by definition advertising and should be treated as such.
  5. Only Fools rush in. Wait until all requests are made before deciding which ones to support with your limited budget.
  6. Evaluate the media profile for each request. Is the media outlet read, viewed or browsed by the right kinds of people – those who would normally be involved in the decision making or purchase process? Check the media pack for statistics.
  7. Evaluate reach. Do the numbers stack up? What proportion of the total readership, viewers or browsers, meet the ideal profile and how does this compare between the different titles. Don’t forget that publisher certified readerships may be less reliable than those with independent certification from bodies such as ABC (in the UK).
  8. Evaluate the offer. What space is being offered in exchange for the charge? If an editor wants £200 for separations on pictures that support your 1500 word feature article to be used in full, then it may be foolish not to accept. If, however, your 500 word case study press release is to be reduced to just 50 words and a postage stamp picture for £200, then this is a bad deal and will not convey your message properly.
  9. Rank for acceptance according to value to you. Based on the above criteria, all offers can now be evaluated with a degree of objectivity and you can cream off the best to a point where the allocated support budget has been used up.
  10. Feedback. Ask for a copy of the journal to check the item was published as agreed. Where possible, monitor resulting leads, phone traffic, web hits, and so on to gain a measure of the quantity and quality of response. Use this feedback to guide future budget and media allocation.

Five Things You Should Not Do

  1. Don’t pay charges to media outlets that were not sent the original material. There are unscrupulous publications that search the web and other journals for stories that they will publish if you pay them a fee. These are often marginal publications with little subject focus and suspect audience figures. Don’t entertain them – save your money!
  2. Don’t allow fear of separation requests to limit media distribution. If your message is relevant to a journal’s audience, then send it. Many editors still judge material on merit and may well publish irrespective of whether you are prepared to pay a fee.
  3. Don’t be rude to advertising people. Everyone is doing a job and the pressure of deadlines can cause some callers to seem aggressive. It is best to stay calm, professional and objective to keep relations friendly.
  4. Don’t rush to accept offers. Even if a closing deadline is imminent, follow procedures 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 above so you spend your limited funds wisely.
  5. Don’t overplay innocence. PR virgins can legitimately claim that this is their first editorial release and are they are testing the market and the media to see which channels work best before deciding future priorities. This line only works once.

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