A New Face for Vanity Publishing?


A lot of things have changed during my career in PR. In particular, the delivery channels we use to reach targeted audiences have been revolutionized by social media.

But some things remain the same. It’s still important to generate clear, consistent and easy-to-understand messages, and to think intelligvanityently about targeting and timing. All of that was true even when I was writing press releases on a typewriter and sending them to media by post.

Back then, Vanity Publishing was a big thing. A large and lucrative industry grew up around the basic principle that people would pay good money to see themselves and their companies in a glossy magazine, or worse, an annual industry ‘report’. “Everyone else is in it…” was a very common sales line from the people who made life miserable by persistently calling our office.

I developed strong arguments to persuade my clients that the only people reading those publications were those who had paid to be in them, and there were better ways to spend their budget. Sometimes I won the argument.

And in 2016? I have to report that Vanity Publishing is still alive and well, just re-invented and with a new face. It’s called Facebook.

Facebook is a great platform for personal branding and keeping in touch with friends and family spread around an increasingly small world. It ‘s also an integral part of the communications strategy of most companies. But a word of caution – the psychology of vanity advertising lurks in Facebook’s system of boosted posts.

A relatively small spend can easily produce many thousands of ‘likes’, making individuals and brands feel loved – a perfectly natural human reaction. But dig deep into the performance statistics, and you may find a different story.

Quality should still win over quantity, every time.  And just like back then with the typewriter, it’s still our job as PR consultants to deliver quality communications results, not just an easy ego boost, however tempting that may be.

Author: David Dowse, Senior Partner at Webb Dowse Intelligent Corporate Communications

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