In a service-based industry like that of weddings, where companies are constantly evolving to adapt to clients' needs and changing trends, it's to be expected that sometimes, businesses are going to step on one another's toes as they grow. We've written about similar topics before; perhaps you read Kyle's recent post on businesses expanding unethically. When you make a decision to branch out into entirely different service categories, it's wise to consider the potential effect on referrals for your primary business (for example, I doubt many photographers will be jumping to recommend a DJ who also sells photography in the same market!).
Is expansion always a bad idea? Of course not, but it should be carefully considered.
What I've been thinking about lately, though, is the wedding industry media's role in supporting businesses vs. undermining them. Magazines, blogs, and television segments have all been guilty of throwing various service categories to the wolves, so to speak, and it sucks.
If this was legitimate journalism, and there was a real story there, then more power to them. Anyone who reads this blog (or speaks to me about business, like, ever) know I love nothing more than putting bad business practices and ethical breaches on blast. That's not what I'm talking about.
I'm talking about magazines, blogs and other media happily accepting hundreds, thousands or tens of thousands of dollars for advertisements, only to run those ads alongside "articles" promoting DIY projects as a replacement for professional vendors, or that clearly favor one vendor category over another while taking money from both.
Here are just a few examples I've personally observed from magazines and blogs in recent years:
- A "how-to" article on creating bouquets from grocery store flowers placed near an ad from a florist
- An editorial on bands being the "classy" choice for wedding entertainment (and lots of references to cheesy DJ stereotypes) placed near a page full of DJ ads
- An article on how to farm out your wedding services (photography, cake, hair and makeup) to friends and family members, placed in the middle of ads from professional providers of all these services
I could go on, but you get the picture. Meanwhile, these (mostly) small businesses are pouring advertising dollars into these publications and sites, and/or laboring over guest content for them, and/or sponsoring their events, and ultimately being thrown under the proverbial bus.
I imagine some people might argue that someone who would "DIY" any part of their wedding would never spend money on a professional anyway, so it shouldn't matter. I'd counter that that's not the point. I believe that, (a) if a magazine or blog purports to care about providing advice and resources to engaged couples, they should be recommending the hiring of professional vendors; and (b) if they are going to take money from an advertiser, while they aren't obligated to endorse that advertiser by any means, they are obligated not to actively dissuade prospective clients from using them entirely.
I also can believe some people might say that, at least for larger magazines and websites, the advertising department is completely separate from the editorial department. And you know what? I don't care. I believe any business of any size needs to define a position on its brand, its mission, and its obligation to its customers (and make no mistake, advertisers are very much clients of a magazine or blog, as much or more so than readers). It starts at the top, and the position that business takes should guide every aspect of its operations, from content to advertising.
Running a super elite magazine and don't want cheap companies on your pages? Totally fine! Throw all the stones you like in your editorial content, as long as you're not taking advertising money from the kinds of companies you're criticizing. Running a blog that's all about the DIY? Great! Just don't try to sell professional businesses on the value of your ad space, when you're going to be steering your readers in the opposite direction through your message.
Maybe those are extreme examples, and certainly many media sources try to provide information to couples of all types, working with a variety of budgets. However, any editorial content that advocates for one vendor category at the expense of another, or diminishes the importance of professional vendors altogether, is an insult to your paying advertisers. And it seems crummy at best, unethical at worst, to take our money and deliver that kind of service.
Because the thing is, we as advertisers have no idea what kind of articles you'll be writing six months from now to run next to our ad. We have no say over where our ad is placed. Magazine and blog publishers, we're trusting in your name and reputation, hoping to reach your audience, and we're putting our hard-earned money (something of which many of us don't have a ton!) into your business.
So maybe don't knock the bottom out of ours.