Five Things: Investigate Before Paying for Awards. I have a client who was contacted by a trade magazine about being named to an industrial top 20 list of promising companies like his. Sounds good, right? Everyone likes recognition, especially the positive kind and especially when it will be published in a widely read, respected trade journal. What’s not to like?
The catch was that there was a $3,000.00 “sponsorship” charge associated with this award. When I heard that, my eyebrows went straight up and found myself instinctively clutching my wallet. But being fair minded investigated further, wanting to give everyone involved the benefit of the doubt.
For the sake of protecting the innocent and not getting sued, I have changed all of the details about this story. Here are the things to investigate before paying for an award from a trade magazine or anyone else.
- Check the magazines’ circulation numbers. For this particular book, Vocus listed their circulation at 0. That does not necessarily mean that there are no readers; it means they did not report the number of readers to any audit company. Serious trade magazines have their readership numbers audited by an outside 3rd party, like BPA. That way they can justify their ad rates and communicate to advertisers that prospective customers see their ads. Be wary of any trade magazine that does not have an audit statement or lists of subscribers or readers.
- How often is the magazine published? 12 is the most often and sometimes there are 24 issues of most magazines. And they supplement with on line issues and podcasts, fine. In this case, the magazines’ web site said they publish “every other month” (which for trade publication is a red flag all by itself) but found other reviews that said they publish 12 issues a year and another that said they published 23. One review said they always publish an issue at the start of the month, but could not say when or if they published one at mid-month. Trade publications run by adults not only publish regularly but they also have an editorial calendar. If you the magazine approaching you does not have an editorial calendar and can’t keep up with the number they intend to publish, run away.
- The absence of a significant social media profile. Checking the twitter page for this magazine, I found there were 93 tweets and 613 followers. Another trade magazine that covered the same topic/industry had by contrast has 28,400 tweets and over 120,000 followers. The absence of a significant social media footprint is a bad sign. News sources (like trade magazines) publish news and use twitter to alert those interested about it because it is important or at least noteworthy. My own twitter account has more tweets than this. Beware. And look at the twitter accounts of others who were similarly approached about the same awards.
- How many other top 10/20/30 lists do they publish? For this particular trade book, I found 3 dozen top whatever lists. When you are 1 among several hundred others, it does not put you in unique company.
- Do your homework. For companies or individuals, it is very hard to hide on line. It is your responsibility to perform due diligence. Some of the clues about “offers” like this are not as obvious as others. No one did anything illegal as far as I can tell. But you have to feel that the overall dubiousness of the award and its price tag are worth noting.
In this case, all the clues were not obvious and that is the real shame. It annoys me considerably to know that honest people are tricked into things like this simply because they do not know the right questions to ask. Now they do. So if someone wants to give you an award and presents you with an invoice, just politely say “no thanks” and move on to the next real opportunity. There are plenty of them and you have lots of interesting things to say.