Should Your Utility Use Advertorials?
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- May 14, 2019
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There used to be a strong “Chinese wall” between the newsrooms and advertising departments in media outlets, meaning each operation worked without the input of the other.
That’s changed in recent years as media outlets are increasing desperate for any revenue they can find. For example, I grumble about it, but the advertising representatives at my day job often pester me about writing stories about their clients — and occasionally (as little as possible) I relent.
One relatively modern creation is the advertorial, which is something an advertiser pays for, but is written in the style of a news article. Usually, there is something on the page that identifies the content as paid advertising, but the idea is to depict the material as part of the publication’s seemingly unbiased news coverage.
While the journalistic “purist” in me decries the idea of advertorials, they do serve a purpose at times for many businesses, including utilities. Do note that advertising can be expensive, so it’s something you’re going to want to do sparingly.
It sounds obvious, but what you say needs to be important. Don’t waste your time with energy-saving tips or other routine information.
Use an advertorial when you need to explain issues that may be complex or controversial (or both).
Things like the reasons why a rate hike is being sought (upgrading facilities, burying power lines, using cleaner energy sources) are perfect topics for an advertorial. Perhaps after a particularly difficult winter weather-wise, explaining how outages are tackled could be a topic. Or how about a discussion on why non-green energy must remain a key part of your utility's power generation.?
Once you have a topic in mind, begin writing, but keep in mind you aren’t writing a white paper, a technical document or even a press release. Therefore, you should adopt a journalistic style similar to the style of the media outlet.
That can mean a couple things.
If your piece is going to appear in a trade publication, you can write at a detailed level because you can safely assume your audience has at least some familiarity with your topic. Still, you should keep in mind that you’ll need to speak in general terms.
And if the advertorial is for a general interest publication such as a daily newspaper or local magazine, remove any industry slang or jargon and assume the readership has minimal background about the topic. That doesn’t mean you have to dumb down information, but remember that the average general publication is written at a middle-school reading level; keep things clear and concise.
Other writing tips:
● Keep your paragraphs short; long blocks of copy are hard to read and cause readers to lose interest.
● Illustrations or graphics are important. The phrase “a picture says a thousand words” is 100 percent correct.
● Consider writing in inverted pyramid style, where you start with the most important material and get into increasing less vital material as you go. Even if readers move on midway through your advertorial, you’ve at least gotten the main points across.