Saturday, August 9, 2008

PR Firm: One Fifth of Major Marketers Buying Favorable News Coverage

I'm not saying it's a huge problem. But 19% of senior marketers saying they do it constitutes a problem.

-Mark Haas, CEO of public relations firm Manning Selvage & Lee

In Michael Bush, "Just So You Know, No One Paid for This Article," Advertising Age, Aug 4, 2008

Hass was referring to a finding in a recent survey by his firm of chief marketing officers that 19% of them said their organizations had bought advertising in return for getting news story about them. Representing one in five senior marketers, that is up for 17% last year. Although one aim of public relations is to get favorable media coverage, Hass contends that it gains legitimacy through a process in which the PR practitioner needs to persuade a media practitioner that the story the PR person is pitching deserves coverage. Paying for this sort of coverage means the standard vetting that goes on through the PR give-and-take with media is lost. Moreover, says Hass, if this sort of pay-for-play influence on editorial becomes broadly public, it could cause media to lose credibility. "There needs be credible, independent media," he stated, "and the marketing industry should not be doing anything to undermine credible editorial quality." A cynic might add that Hass doesn't want his clients to get into the habit of simply paying for favorable editorial attention--an activity that would lessen the value of Manning Selvage & Lee's work.

New media seems to be a particular problem, according to the survey findings. More than half (53%) of the senior marketers said that the marketing industry as a whole is not following ethical guidelines in the new-media realm. "It's almost like there's a different standard for online activity, and that's a little worrisome because that's a growth area," said Hass. "That's something that the industry needs to be attentive to, because the reputational damange that can occur if a marketer is dishonest online is huge."

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