Public relations is a big industry. As such, it has its fair share
of cringe-worthy moments.
For instance, late last month, when a PR rep
contacted reporters and offered to pay them money
to write favorable blogs about their client. This is an
elementary-level no-no that is taught in journalism and public relations
schools throughout the U.S.
In my journalism school, it was framed as the separation of church and state
in the newsroom: the entity seeking to pay money to get its message
across was directed to the advertising department. The newsroom was
walled off from that transaction so as not to unduly influence the fair
and objective newsgathering process.
In this particular case, the PR rep actually wasn’t a PR professional
at all. She was a freelancer with no training, contracted by a content
marketing agency, to stir up some good press for a client. So perhaps
it’s not surprising that she flubbed it, but it does underscore the
importance of sending trained PR pros in to engage with journalists. Too often I see content marketing agencies and advertising firms
claiming to ‘do PR,’ but their idea of PR is spamming the media with
awful press releases and, in this unfortunate case, trying to buy reporters.
What does a PR pro learn that informs the way they conduct themselves
in their profession? Ethics, objectivity, accuracy, First Amendment
rights, sunshine laws, copyright laws, important legal decisions, and
A lot has changed in the news business in the last decade, including
the rise of paid blogging and native advertising, which are presented as
news but are actually paid content. In serious newsrooms, such as the
ones contacted by this PR rep, the separation of church and state is
sacred. A true PR pro knows this well.
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John Raffetto is CEO of Raffetto Herman Strategic Communications. A version of this article originally appeared on the firm's blog.