The perils of demanding in-copy mentions
A favourite rant among journalists right now concerns how increasingly hard it is to secure free flights. It’s been a complaint for decades now, so I can only assume that originally we merely had to click our fingers or smile nicely to get airline tickets.
Nowadays, however, the norm is for airlines to request a mention in the copy as well as the promised factbox plug. I say request, but it’s more akin to a demand: those are our terms, Richard, take it or leave it. It’s not just airlines, either: I’ve received the same ultimatum from domestic and international train firms of late. Ferries and car-hire firms may also be doing it. Next thing you know I’ll have to namecheck the Rome airport bus in order to get a complimentary shuttle from Fiumicino.
I do understand how they see it, though. How effective actually is a measly factbox mention? Probably more so than you think, especially as part of a long-term strategy to increase visibility, SEO, etc., but clearly less impactful than a factbox mention AND one in the copy too. Why sell yourself short? ‘Those journalists need us, after all,’ might be their (logical) thinking.
Alas, such tactics can go wrong. Lately, I’ve spotted a few instances where such in-copy mentions have hardly been positive. “The hurtling RichardStar train home signalled an abrupt end to my idyllic week.” “Not even the deterrent of a four-hour Air Richard flight could dampen my spirits.” “Paying £22 for 32 Pringles on board RichAir only amplified the city’s value for money.” That sort of thing.
Because, after all, no-one said that the in-copy mention had to be gushing. Demanding a positive review is a step too far; you’re effectively asking the journalist to shelve their impartiality.
Consequently, this can become a case of being careful what you wish for. If these negative in-copy mentions prolong, I do wonder what will happen next: a return to factbox-only satisfaction, or a withdrawal of support altogether in favour of other commercial avenues?
What Richard Thinks…