When the Head of Travel at The Telegraph, the fabulous Claire Irvin, asked me to write a spa column, her one stipulation was that I wasn’t too nice. She wanted to shake me out of magazine mode and into newspaper mode.
What do I mean by that? Well at magazines, I, and I think many of my colleagues, usually avoid being hyper critical, or even critical, of clothes, products, hotels or spas. The general vibe of a glossy is that it should be a relaxed read that doesn’t feel too shouty or angry. More celebratory. So if a product is less than effective, an item of clothing a bit drab, a hotel or spa sub par, we just won’t feature it.
I am generally an effusive, positive person, so my reports tend to find the good in situations, (except Kanye’s bid for president – I can’t find any plus points in that), so my reviews tend to mirror that.
But I recognise that people want a balanced view from their newspaper. If it’s all positive it feels like a paid promotion. The readers have an BS radar that means they immediately glaze over if a story feels bought. I’ve seen and heard this in reader panels a million times. Okay not a million, but a fair few.
Yes, yes, you might say, but how does this impact me? Well I guess it’s about managing your client’s expectations. Saying that yes, a journalist might have pointed out the spa menu was lacking imagination, or that the product’s pump was faulty, but if it’s a fair and balanced review, it’s better than a tap-dancing puff piece which has zero credibility.