By Tim McGivern
Your business has been chosen for a feature article in the New Mexico Business Journal. ... Imagine that. Your business is doing such a great job, leading the way in productivity, efficiency, employee retention, customer service and satisfaction, well-paying job creation and just about every other newsworthy category and, as a result, a monthly business magazine wants to do a story on you.
“Your business has been chosen, along with a select group of other area firms, for a feature article in the New Mexico Business Journal,” the letter states.
So you prepare to meet with a journalist and tell your story. Maybe you even write up a press release and bring it with you. But when you show up at the Marriot or Sheraton, you're corralled into a banquet room with 25 other pigeons who got the same letter and then you have to sit through a sales presentation, trying to get you to spend $18,000 in advertising in exchange for a two-page feature on your business. And then the pressure pitch gets thrown, and you're told you have to make a decision immediately.
Peri Pakroo, owner of p-brain media in Albuquerque, was one of those pigeons.
“I thought that I'd show up and meet a reporter,” said Pakroo. “Once I got there, there was no effort to conceal the pay for play aspect. It was really pathetic.”
Jon Little, another local small business representative, described the experience this way: “So I went to the luncheon after receiving a letter saying they wanted to do a story on my business. I get there, and there were probably 20 others in attendance. Then the publisher gets up and gives a 5-minute talk bragging about his magazine, and then he introduces a consultant. The consultant is super slick, kind of like the guy who sells miracle blade knives on a TV infomercial. He goes over why business leaders and decision makers read monthly business journals. Then a sales person gets up and explains that if you run full-page ads in every single issue for a year, then you get a feature story.”
Pakroo and Little both said the initial letter they received from the glossy magazine did not mention that the feature article came at a cost.
Stanley P. Woody, the magazine's publisher, didn't see any journalistic conflict. “It's our way of saying thank you for participating in an advertising and marketing opportunity,” said Woody, in an interview with the Alibi last week. “I think it's been highly successful for those people who have chosen to participate,” adding: “We (also) do stories on people that aren't regular advertisers.”
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