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Getting Your Utility’s Message Out Via Advertorials

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Andy Gotlieb's picture
Editor of a specialty publication, former public relations practitioner, Freelancer

I hold 34 years of experience in communications, mostly in journalism, with a decade in public relations, too.  The first 17 years were spent in print journalism, where I covered, at various...

  • Member since 2016
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  • Jul 29, 2022
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I often receive story pitches for things my newspaper just won’t cover. Sometimes the pitches are interesting, but they simply don’t fit our coverage.

Anyone who’s ever pitched for a utility (or any other business/organization) knows that sometimes you just can’t get anyone to bite on your idea.

But if the message you’re trying to promote is that important, you do have an alternative.

That would be an advertorial. For those that aren’t familiar, an advertorial is paid advertising in the form of a news story. In a newspaper, an advertorial looks like a regular news story; on TV, everyone’s familiar with infomercials, which tend to be product pitches – something that likely isn’t going to interest a utility.

An advertorial appearing in a newspaper or magazine should be a consideration, although there’s a cost to it (and advertising isn’t cheap).

Before you reject the idea because of the cost, consider a few things.

For one, while a “free” news article or segment on your topic of choice may seem ideal, how often have you found your utility to be only a small part of a story that may or may not focus on your preferred topic?

Second, op-eds, which also are free, can be effective, but you’re going to have to convince editors that your topic is of interest to the general readership. Believe me, the media rejects far more op-ed suggestions than it receives and puts stringent requirements on those topics that do pass muster.

You have total control with an advertorial, short of committing libel or writing patently false things.

Don’t worry that your advertorial will be ignored. Readers can’t tell the difference between a news story, an op-ed, an editorial or an advertorial, even when the latter is in a different font and is marked as paid content.

If you think an op-ed is right for you, what should you write about?

Keep away from the mundane and obvious, instead focusing on issues that are potentially controversial, complex and require in-depth information.

Some possible topics include explaining why rates are going up, detailing why your utility is implementing power shutdowns to avoid wildfires or discussing why you still rely on coal or less environmentally friendly means of generating power.

As for the actual writing, approximate journalistic style instead of what you might use in a press release or white paper. That means eliminating industry jargon and writing so your audience can understand.

Use a journalistic style called the “inverted pyramid.” Place the most information at the top. As the story progresses, the information decreases in importance.

Few people will read an entire story, so hook them early. Even if they stop reading, they should get the gist of your argument.

Keep your paragraphs short — no more than a sentence or two long.

And illustrate your advertorial with photographs or graphics. Breaking up gray space is a way to keep readers reading.

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Andy Gotlieb's picture
Thank Andy for the Post!
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