When It Comes to PR and the Media, Sometimes You Just Don’t Have Control

Know what the worst thing about PR/media relations is?  The lack of control.

Ask anyone who is realistic and reputable in the public relations game and they’ll tell you that they can’t guarantee coverage.  If they guarantee you coverage, run.  The BBPR team collectively have more than a few long-standing relationships with members of the media, but regardless, we don’t control what a reporter or editor writes about a brand.  We try to guide them towards topics and themes our clients support, but control… not so much.

From time to time, media will miss something in the fact-checking portion of their story production.  That could include putting a typo in a brand’s URL or using the word carbon instead of Kevlar.  That’s disappointing, but it happens.  People make mistakes.

What’s tough to stomach for PR people, and even tougher for clients,  is when media omit facts or manipulate them with an agenda.

Take for example, ABC News’ coverage of Toyota and their accelerator issue.  If you’ve read Gawker recently, you may have seen their story uncovering of some interesting things about Brian Ross’ piece.

I’m not saying that Toyota’s recall isn’t warranted, but staging visuals for the benefit of more compelling news coverage… well, that’s an interesting slope to sled down.

With project BLUE, we’ve recently had an incident with the guys over at Drift Surfing.  Nothing was staged, but facts were not officially checked and some feedback left on their comment section by Vipe Desai (project BLUE’s founder) was deleted.

This article discusses the surf industry’s green initiatives.  The author makes an erroneous mention of Billabong in relation to project BLUE.

While the author is entitled to his own thoughts on project BLUE, but he missed a lot.  A simple visit to the About section of project BLUE’s site would have given him more info.  A Google search may have revealed a lot more, including that more than $140,000 has been donated to Surfrider as a result of the project BLUE partners, answering his question about “What has this much-shouted-about project achieved since its launch in 2007?”

When an online article is published with some information that’s either wrong or you don’t agree with, a brand can either opt to let it slide or provide feedback.  Vipe opted to provide feedback, elaborating on the initiative and $ donated.  Drift opted to delete Vipe’s comments because, according to Drift,  they did not meet the two criteria the site abides by, specifically:

1. They have to be constructive, whether they’re critical or complimentary.

2. They do not constitute commercial promotion for brands.

We know there was some back and forth between Vipe and the people at Drift, but in the end, the article remained intact and Vipe’s comments deleted.  It’s their site and they can do what they want.  project BLUE doesn’t support them in advertising and even if they did, that doesn’t always mean you can get your agenda across in editorial.

Short story long, these things happen in the world of PR/media/editorial relations.  Not every piece that’s come out about project BLUE has been to our  liking and there was one year that it seemed every journalist (ok, maybe four) who covered Rome SDS in the non-endemic media titled their article “When in Rome…” or “Rome, if you want to…  The guys @ Rome let it slide and so has Vipe.

As PR people, we have to be truthful with our clients in counseling them that negative pieces may appear and sometimes, there’s very little we can do about them.  Besides a long post on our blog.

Want a piece of marketing you can have total control over?  Then buy an ad.  In fact, please do buy ads… they’re a valuable piece of the marketing mix.

If you want to get into the PR/media relations boat as a part of your marketing program, welcome aboard, just don’t think you’re always going to be able to steer the ship.

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~ by doubleb on June 17, 2010.

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