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Beware of the magazine “beauty contest”

January 25th, 2005

Dr Petra

When magazines are launching, or trying to revamp themselves, some go for a particularly naughty trick that can catch experts and other would be contributors unawares. It goes something like this.

Someone from the magazine will approach you in full on perky mode. They’ll explain this is a ‘hush hush call about an exciting new project’, and then they’ll wax lyrical about the new (or improved) magazine, and how they ‘really, really want you to be a part of it’. Because you’re great, the best, the most cutting edge, and all round fantastic person they know.

They’ll omit to tell you they’ve already given this pitch to several other of your peers, so entering you all in a full on beauty contest. And like your fellow contestants, you’re none the wiser.

Then they hit you with the OPPORTUNITY.

‘We’d really like you to be our resident columnist/ agony aunt/ doctor/ expert. Are you interested?’

If you say yes, they then say something like…

‘Well what we really need is to see some examples of your work, so we can find out about you’. This is after them saying just a few seconds before how they think everything you’ve ever done is marvellous.

‘We really need to see how you work, so could you please send me a few example story ideas/ answers to problems/ new developments in your field?’

They’ll explain they need this to show their editor. They won’t say they’ve asked everyone else they’ve called for the same.

If you do respond, you may hear nothing from them for a while. If you or they eventually make contact, they inevitably say something like…

‘Oh well, thanks for your help. The editors have now decided that they don’t want a resident columnist/ agony aunt/ doctor/ expert, but I do hope you’ll be around to help us with quotes or story ideas!’

Or if you’re even less lucky they’ll say…

‘Oh you were great, but the editor’s picked someone famous. Sorry.’

Either way, they’ll have talked to you and your peers, asking each to provide story ideas – so with a bit of flattery they’ll have wheedled fifteen to twenty unique story ideas out of you.

Clever, eh?

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