Editorial vs. advertorial – does it really matter to a customer?

These days, companies have numerous avenues for promoting their goods and services, but there is still tremendous benefit to achieving positive publicity (managing bad publicity is another story!) through traditional media such as newspapers and printed publications. 

Anyone who’s been in the public relations game for a while will have numerous examples of their triumphs and disappointments at gaining exposure in local media and will agree there are no guarantees in what will be printed and what will be passed over.

There is no doubt it takes one or more damn good press releases, and an even better news angle to capture the attention of an editor, and if you are involved in a topical or high-profile sector then it often gets easier to gain regular publicity.  If you are successful at achieving an article in the newspaper, the storage and recall of the internet also means the article’s life will last far beyond the solitary day it appeared in print.

If you haven’t had a lot of exposure to this public relations technique, it is important to understand the two basic ways to gain publicity through newspapers – editorials and advertorials.  These can sometimes look the same, but they are totally different beasts with benefits and disadvantages to both.


Pure editorial can be difficult to define, but is generally the stories that appear in a newspaper for their news value, relevance to current events and the section in which it appears.  Editorial is purely at the discretion of the publication concerned and cannot be paid for or requested to appear on a particular day.  Additionally, what may appear in one newspaper may not be considered newsworthy by another, so geography and audience also play their parts in what will be included.  Newspapers, magazines and trade publications will also differ greatly on what they consider to be of interest to their readers.

Editorial coverage in local media has huge benefits to your business such as raising your profile, showing you as a topic expert, and promoting your company by being mentioned in the article.  If you have something to share with the world, or at least your local community, the general rule is to make contact with the newsroom and see what they have to say.  If they say no today, they may say yes next week, next month, or next year!  The potential positive outcomes are just too good to give up trying.


Unlike its elusive counterpart, advertorial has a price tag and therefore has a higher chance of being included.  Generally, advertorial (a story usually written like a news story but with advertiser-focused content), is offered as a carrot to attract companies to spend money on an advertisement in a special feature being run in the paper.  These features commonly promote sectors such as travel, employment, education, motoring, and lifestyle products to name a few.

For an ‘everyday’ business, that isn’t particularly newsworthy in their own right (and I don’t mean making it into the news for gross negligence, or for the latest spate of workplace accidents – that belongs in the same story as managing bad publicity), advertorials are a very valid means of gaining publicity in a more traditional-looking news sense, with targeted readers who are genuinely interested in the types of products on offer.  There is a school of thought that believes advertorial may diminish your credibility with customers because it isn’t ‘real’ news, but I always advise that advertorial coverage is far better than no coverage at all and, provided you take the time to produce professional newsworthy copy, your company will be presented in a very favourable light to potential customers.

Tips for success

If you are interested in achieving greater success with either editorial or advertorial inclusions, these simple tips may increase your strike rate:


  • Make your copy newsworthy; editors see through blatant attempts at free publicity;
  • Time your press releases to coincide with other topical issues such as what is going on in your community to which you may be able to offer expert advice;
  • Become familiar with the appropriate journalists and editors; general news may not be an achievable section, but there are numerous other departments which may be interested in your information;
  • Don’t limit yourself to newspapers; think about specific trade and specialist magazines and publications appropriate to your industry;
  • Be persistent, be persistent, be persistent.


  • Only choose advertorial opportunities that are appropriate to your target audience; commercial features can be just as expensive as normal advertising;
  • Check if advertorial is guaranteed; if there is high demand for inclusion in an advertising feature, there may only be a guarantee for your copy to be considered but not included;
  • Write your advertorial just like you would a news release, but present your company as an expert on the topic and include your company information and contact details; make it easy for the features editor to include you;
  • Offer high-quality, interesting and relevant photos to go with your advertorial;
  • Adhere to timeframes as sometimes the deadline for advertorial copy is different to advertising artwork;
  • Does the feature have an extended life-span; e.g. is it used as the official lift-out at a trade-show?

Remember, gaining publicity through local media isn’t the “be all and end all” to your promotional activities, but a wise marketing manager will ensure that media exposure is a planned component of the overall communications strategy.

Source by Maria Morton

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