Favours for savours are just part of PR

Posted on 17/06/2011


The first rule of PR is never to talk about PR. Well, that’s what it seems like anyway.

Yesterday, Redner Group made the headlines for threatening not to send some reviewers the next Duke Nukem game, after they went ‘too far’ in their criticism.

And for all the game manufacturer’s claims that it seeks to maintain a healthy relationship with journalists (as all brands do), decisions on who to give announcements or advance copies of products to is a big part of the PR world.

I spent several years freelance music reviewing and vividly recall how media were treated by entertainment brands.

One review I wrote for Beverley Knight’s 1998 single ‘Sista Sista‘ ended:

 If I were one of Knight’s ‘sistas’ and she got the microphone out at a family party, I would lock myself in a Mandleson-esque closet until the abuse of music ended. (Zero stars)

It failed to chart.

But the label, Parlophone were so incensed by the review that they rang the music editor and threatened to black list the title and not send any further releases unless there was a positive review of Knight’s next effort.

Similarly, I remember Blur’s PR agency calling and saying they could only send the preview copies of ‘13‘ (and a syndicated interview CD) to a paper, if that title also gave a good review to another client.

And it is not just the entertainment industry which continues to indulge in favours for savours.  Those Sunday newspaper exclusives of government policy announcements are carefully placed as reward for previous endeavours (or possible future favours), interviews with FTSE CEOs are granted based on networks and off the record chats. And as for the Sports pages, the growth of blatant product placement and guaranteed messaging in return for celebrity access is almost worthy of a dissertation.

Redner’s mistake was not to think about the targeting of journalists, but to make an ‘off the record’ decision public on Twitter. And, for PRs, it just shows how careful you must be when talking about PR.