A Shady Public Relations Tactic the Media Won’t Buy
Public relations firms are in the business of garnering media attention for their clients. Most firms have a good professional relationship with the local and national media. But a select few resort to underhanded tactics that are inevitably discovered, exposed and dismissed.
A tactic that some PR firms and corporate PR departments have tried for years is what I call the “Let’s not tell ‘em’” ploy. This tactic is met by news media personnel with a mixed dose of amusement and irritation.
This trick involves sending the media a text, email or letter in which the PR folks herald “an event of major importance” but give no details. The release gives the place, date and time of this earth-shattering announcement, asks for an RSVP and clearly states that “No details will be given until time of announcement”.
I am sure the person who wrote and sent this news release spent the rest of the day patting himself on the back smugly believing he has written the ultimate come-on that will have television, radio and newspaper reporters unquestioningly stampeding to the announcement to find out what it’s all about. He sees himself as the Pied Piper of Hamlin believing the media rats will follow him blindly.
This PR tactic has so many downsides that the headline might as well read, “Do Not Cover This Event.” First, the PR agency has labeled this as a major announcement. Really? In whose eyes is it major? I received such an announcement on the same day two young men in trench coats and armed to the teeth turned Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado into a killing field. Suffice it to say the PR agency’s “major announcement” was completely ignored that day. It’s best to let the media decide what is major news, what is not and what is worth covering.
The next downside to this tactic is that the news media, especially television, will never show up for an announcement without knowing what the announcement will be. A television station is not going to commit a reporter, photographer, station vehicle and assign a tape editor to an event without being told what the event is about. Finally, the news media are under no obligation to RSVP.
Be assured that within an hour of receiving such a news release we will know what the major, super-secret announcement is going to be. It simply takes a few phone calls to the local radio station or newspaper whose reporters always have their ears to the ground. Company employees are also a good source of information about what’s going on inside the company. And if all else fails, there’s always the call to the local tavern where the bartender knows everything.
Bottom line is that there is nothing your company is doing that must be kept secret until a certain time. Frankly, you and your employees are the only ones who really care. As for the rest of us the sun will rise and our lives will not change no matter how important you think your announcement is.
So, is there a better way to approach the media about your big announcement? Most certainly. Instead of this cat-and-mouse game tell us what your announcement is and why you feel it warrants media coverage. Perhaps your company is announcing a major expansion. Sell us on the story. Perhaps your expansion will mean hundreds of jobs which will add to the community’s tax base. Area grocery stores, convenience stores, repair shops, banks, restaurants and pharmacies all stand to benefit.
This is the kind of stuff that makes the media come running!