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There is a general belief that ‘true’ journalism — the old, honest, non-fake news kind that is — and marketing don’t go together. Or, by definition at least, the former should always be very suspicious of the latter.
A science versus religion kind of battle. Yes, for business reasons they are often side by side, but there are clear boundaries.
Sowing the seeds of dislike
Indeed, in my first ever full-time radio job back in Ireland, those boundaries were made very clear. The ground floor was home to the advertising and marketing staff, the first floor housed the journalists and presenters.
Of course, as a commercial radio station, advertising and marketing are vital components of the operation. We journalists/presenters wouldn’t have been in a position to get our wages without them.
“A desire not to deal in horse manure.”
At the same time, without our, um, top-quality on-air work, no company would want to advertise with the radio station. Thus, journalistic integrity had to be preserved. There, as happens across all commercial media groups, the battle lines were drawn (not that, in my own experiences anyway, open conflict regularly followed).
With that background, coupled with a strong desire not to deal in horse manure (what I see as such anyway), I’ve tended to look somewhat unfavourably at much of the whole marketing world.
For sure, with the likes of IQuiz I’ve had to dabble in it, but that’s just innocent (and honest!) self-promotion. However, putting my energies into helping promote large companies, ones that I have no real connection with, especially so when it’s via a third party, that’s another story.
Work, sleep, eat, repeat
Nonetheless, when opportunity knocks during tight times, you’ve got to act. Do what’s asked of you, nod and agree with your superiors (within reason), get your pay and repeat, for as long as you need to or can. Keep the head down.
This is where I kind of find myself right now. It’s a mercenary gig in a sense.
“Experience tells us that this ‘care’ comes with caveats.”
Now, this isn’t to say that all the publicity being churned out for the respective clients is complete hyperbole. No, from my perspective, the most disconcerting part is putting together all this positive speak for a company that you have no direct role in.
You know, like if you get the standard phrase of ‘We care about our customers’ when, through personal experience, you know that said ‘care’ appears to come with a number of caveats.
If I could deal directly with the client/company, relay my negative experiences as the paying customer they ‘care’ so much about, explain to them there’s plenty of room for improvement and get a commitment from them that they’ll ‘try harder’, it might make me feel more relaxed.
‘Me speak English good’
Experience lets me know that it’s unlikely much would change, though. What’s more, when they think their non-native English works better than mine, it shows you what we’re up against.
It must be pointed out here that it’s not a case of having sleepless nights or the like over this. Things aren’t that sinister.
Marketing, be it in-house or by a third party and no matter how slick it may be, can only do so much for a company.
If the product or service doesn’t match the message, in whatever language it’s written, patrons won’t be long fooled.
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