Logistics PR Opportunities: Avoid “Pay for Play” Ploys

Jim Bierfeldt

Jim Bierfeldt is the founder and chief strategist at Logistics Marketing Advisors, a marketing firm that helps logistics businesses define and communicate their value, and then translate that value into revenue.

The email may start out something like this:

“XYZ Logistics has been identified as an innovative logistics provider that we would like to feature in an upcoming issue of INDUSTRY WORLD (I made up this name) – a magazine aimed at CEOs and senior operations executives…”

The email is typically sent to the CEO of the company, who believes it may be an opportunity for some free exposure and passes it on to the person in charge of marketing or public relations to “handle.” Often the so-called logistics PR opportunity has achieved sufficient momentum before it’s handed off that it’s hard to back off.Caution

I’ve fielded probably two dozen of these kinds of come-ons over the years.  They come from “publishers” whose business model is to attract companies to be the subject of feature articles in exchange for a list of their key vendors (there’s no free lunch).  The publisher then approaches these vendors to solicit advertising in support of the feature article on the vendor’s key client.

The publisher’s assumption – and evidently a pretty sound one since this business model seems to be sustainable – is that the vendor, in an effort to stay in the good graces of this important client, will agree to place the ad.

How despicable is that – capitalizing on a vendor’s fear and desire to protect future revenue?

Once the all-important vendor list is handed over, a writer is assigned to interview the CEO and the piece is published in an online magazine that will never been seen by anyone outside of the featured companies.

How to Spot These Logistics PR Mirages

Luckily, the first thing most of my clients do is share the email with me before they respond.  At this point, I can spot these “pay for play” ploys pretty quickly and direct the client to politely decline.

That’s no biggie for the publisher. For them it’s a numbers game. They just work their database until they find the next CEO whose ego needs stroking.

How do you spot these rip-offs disguised as logistics PR opportunities? Here are a few red flags:

  • You’ve never heard of the publication
  • The pitch talks about wanting to spotlight your company’s leadership or innovation in the field of logistics
  • The magazine has no data from ABC (Audit Bureau of Circulation) to validate its circulation
  • The approach comes via the CEO’s office and the publisher tries to avoid working with corporate or agency PR contacts (i.e., the gatekeepers who keep them out)
  • They describe their readers as “senior decision-makers” in the given industry or use other impressive but vague language
  • The writer doesn’t have a point of view and is happy to focus on whatever topics the featured company suggests
  • You’re allowed to proof and approve the article prior to publishing – something few real publications will do

If a PR opportunity seems too good to be true, it probably is.  The key for marketers is to be strong and urge the boss to walk away – even if the boss has already set his/her sights on being featured on the magazine’s cover.

The published article will do little to raise your company’s profile, but will do an excellent job of extracting money from your most trusted business partners.

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