Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Media relations in hard times

Rob Pegoraro has heard about a disturbing trend:
I learned a few things, none more disturbing than this: That some journalists--mostly tech freelancers, I was told--now regularly ask publicists to tweet out links to their work, noting that they get paid by how much traffic their stories generate.
Not a proud moment for the reporter, but as Pegoraro suggests, perfectly predictable. For the record, no one has asked me to do this.

A healthy news industry is in the interest of flacks. Therefore, we would be well advised to promote links to reporters in our respective fields whether or not they have written favorably about our clients. At a time when more and more positions are being cut, it is in our interest to demonstrate the news value of our practice area by driving up traffic to those stories.

And let us be realistic, reporters and editors are human. They are far more likely to open the email from someone who consistently promotes their work.

However, the practice of paying reporters based on page views is a poisonous one. It is not simply that the skills of reporting a story are different from the skills of promotion. It is only a question of time before some PR firm writes a bot that will artificially boost page views. It would work like a slow motion denial of service attack, boosting pages views without crashing the server. Measuring reporters by page views is simply asking for trouble.

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