PR v radio news: When push comes to shove

By Scott Mayman:

It appears some PR communications divisions and media departments have embarked on a war with news outlets.

At issue: A push to get ads in a news story. I’ve noticed it’s only getting worse.

It’s not uncommon for a media release to include the cost of a product. That’s fair game.

The journalist who crafts the story is then expected to weed out the advertising from the news value of the product. After all, the price of a product is always frowned upon as a news story.

So, what happens if a journalist does their job, only for the product’s communications department to contact the news outlet and complain they’ve been unfairly treated?

In the first wave, they contact a news outlet manager to show the journalist in a bad light. Then, in the second wave, the journalist will be threatened in some way. Usually they’ll be told the company will never work with them again.

In an example only, it may be “The price is just $99.”

But, when news doesn’t mention the price, all hell breaks loose.

So what?

We are fortunate that this tactic is small scale. Not all media departments are like that. In fact, most continue to enjoy a great relationship with news outlets and vice versa.

At the end of the day, it’s THESE good media departments that will be successful in their messages being delivered for free by traditional news outlets.

Sadly though, I’ve noticed the tactic has started to gain traction involving small scale low cost internal publicity and media departments.

The tactic of a cost in a media release has been around for a long time but these days a small amount of media outlets are focusing on ‘price’ as their message for traditional news outlets.

In a recent incident that involved a story I was writing,  I was told by the media rep “We’ve never had a problem elsewhere.”

Threatening a journalist is not a good road to go down.  It only sets back the relationship between newsrooms and a company’s communications departments.

A job well done to other news outlets that have held their ground after I was advised of similar threats.

But media departments that are following this tactic need to be aware they are only hurting themselves.

The turning point comes when they seek free publicity,  but their message is no longer being delivered by news outlets.

My message to fellow journalists: Hold your ground.  Watch out for this tactic and don’t be a victim.

Do we name our source?

Yes – in most cases, an attribution is of course a credible way to strengthen the story as a genuine report. It adds weight to credibility.

Having said that, I know that sometimes it might get shaved off for timing purposes (and yes, I’ve done that for that very same reason), but for the most part, it’s generally accepted.

*Scott Mayman is a senior journalist and newsreader with CBS and Capital Radio and currently presenting news for both 6iX Perth and 2CC/2CA Canberra. He is a former news director and also a regular contributor to Radio Today and RadioInfo.

Tags: | |