What Don’t You Understand About Free Advertising?

By Jake Poinier

Right before the holidays, I received a story assignment for a lifestyle magazine—which meant trying to reach sources right in the heart of the holidays, and which is always a bit tricky with vacations and understaffed offices.

One of the guys called me back when I was on the 9th hole of a golf course with my family. Another called me at 7 a.m. on a morning after we’d been out late, so I was a bit bleary-eyed. Nonetheless, both were helpful once we finally connected.

The third contact, not so much—and they’re important, because they’re in the magazine’s local area. I left a voicemail. I filled out a form on their website. I called again and reached the guy, who said “send an email with interview questions to my assistant,” which I dutifully did.

I heard nothing.

My editor gave me an extension to get the locals in. When I gave another call to the company, the guy reiterated EXACTLY what he’d said the first time about sending an email to his assistant, adding that he’s too busy to schedule an interview at a moment’s notice. When I mentioned that it wasn’t really at a moment’s notice since I’d indeed done so more than a week prior, he was unapologetic. But he did ask that I contact his assistant again to get on his schedule.

So I slinked back to my editor for another extension, and her response was classic: ”What is it about free advertising that they’re so adverse to?”

I’ve never quite understood when a company has a chance for free editorial placement, and they make life difficult. Maybe they’re suspicious that it’s a disguised sales pitch. Perhaps they’re so successful they don’t need more business. I dunno.

What I do know is that, 24 hours and a voicemail and an email reminder later, I still haven’t heard back.

Have you taken the 2012 Freelance Forecast survey yet? Please do—and don’t forget to share it on your favorite social media and with your clients.

4 thoughts on “What Don’t You Understand About Free Advertising?”

  1. I hate that, too. I’ve been working with more trade magazines lately and it’s basically straight up free ad space for them. There is no chance the magazine is going to write anything but positive things about them. Yet, people are so lazy. One lady sent me a copy of an article the magazine wrote about her the previous year and said I could just copy the wording from it!

  2. Freelancers never get a holiday off, but it seems that magazines do. And it would definitely be in their best interest to contact you about this. There’s no downside to this for them! I wonder if they’ve really thought this through? I’d be grasping at opportunities like this if I were in their shoes!

  3. @Princess, it makes you shake your head–or maybe bang it against the wall–doesn’t it?

    @Catherine, I don’t mind the act of writing when nobody else is working. (It’s actually kind of peaceful to have the phone stay mostly quiet.) But this little anecdote was not my only “chase-and-wait” of Holiday Season 2012, so I think it all added up to me being cranky…

    @Krysha, weird, isn’t it? Free exposure in a very nice high-end magazine, in which an ad would cost him thousands of dollars, and he’s acting like I’m doing him a favor.

    Epilogue: The subject of this rant finally emailed me with a few sentences on Friday night, and his assistant sent some blurry, poorly lit photos. But I have written and submitted the article!

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