Well, because it’s Friday, and because I obviously didn’t learn my lesson the first time I wrote about this, here’s another prime example of Things PRs Do That Annoy Me, hot off the press this morning.

(DISCLAIMER: Not all PRs annoy me. Not all PRs do Bad Things. In fact, most of them are lovely! I heart them! On with the show…)

The example: an email from a PR, complaining about the fact that although his company advertised in a recent supplement I wrote some copy for, they were not mentioned in the editorial. “We advertise heavily in [name of publication]” he wrote, “and would therefore expect to get a mention.”

Oh really? And why is that, then? Surely this PR is not suggesting that his company would like to buy their way into an article? I mean, I’m sure that’s not what he’s trying to say, because, after all, PRs never do things like that, and if they do, well hey, journalists are just as bad, so there’s no point in me complaining about it, is there?

I think there is, actually. Last week I was criticised by a PR for apparently “relying on press releases too much”. This week I’m criticised by a PR for not relying on them enough, and for – shock horror – neglecting to give preferential treatment to advertisers. I really can’t win, can I?  For the record, the advertising team at the publication in question don’t tell me who has taken out adverts. This is because I don’t need to know. It’s not relevant. If a company has done something newsworthy, then they can expect to get some coverage. Buying advertising space is not newsworthy, and if a journalist has any integrity at all, it’s not going to sway their decision on whether or not to include you.  If you buy advertising you’ll get an advert. That’s it. You don’t have the right to complain about not also getting editorial because as long as your advert appeared, you got what you paid for.

Thankfully, the vast majority of PRs out there are well aware that “advertising” and “news” are two completely different things – or should be. It’s the ones who don’t who make my job difficult, and I have to say that, of all of the things PRs have done to irritate me recently, I think this one wins the prize.

To put it in perspective: lots of companies advertise in this particular supplement, and only one PR complained that their advert didn’t guarantee them editorial. So this kind of behaviour is hardly what you could call “the norm”. The problem is, though, that there’s always one, isn’t there? Every single time I’ve written for something like this, there’ll be at least one PR who’ll have a hissyfit because they thought buying an advert automatically guaranteed them preferential treatment. Where do they get this idea from? Is it the advertising team, promising them the world just to get their hands on the cold, hard cash? Is it the fact that some publications do allow advertisers to monopolize editorial? Is it the PR industry itself? Answers on a press release postcard…


    A cash-rich but idea-poor advertiser today released a pointless press release puffing their doomed product, opening with a first paragraph that merely amplifies the vacuous headline.

    Industry commentators greeted the so-called news with a collective yawn. Or at least they would, if anyone still bothered to read press releases.

    Chief Executive A Twat said:

    "This is a quote. You can tell by the fact that my lazy PR team pressed SHIFT-2 before typing this bit of the press release. They seem to think that by making this a quote, it's more likely to get into your editorial, for example by saying something which pretends to be outrageous about our ill-fated product.

    "In fact it doesn't add anything at all. The truth is that I hate my PR team and they hate me."

    Media professionals are expected to copy and paste from this press release like the drooling slack-jawed idiots they've become, but only to keep their editors in work, and to kid their alleged friends into thinking that they're whatever passes for a proper journalist these days.


    You can find further information about our useless product at http://www.merely-going-through-the-motions.com. But trust me: you won't bother, because talk is cheap and – thanks to the internet – text is cheaper.

  2. Advertising vs Editorial Integrity has always been a problem and becoming more so as more newsrooms come under commercial pressure to appease the major advertisers.

    When we launched Insider Magazine the advertising team were forever bringing press releases to us, on the editorial team, because the companies issuing them just happened to be advertising in that particular issue.

    We just treated them on their editorial merits although it became slightly more tricky when a company was sponsoring a particular supplement. Luckily, our publisher and managing director, the excellent Nick Jaspan, held the robust view that “journalism came first” – and this is what sold the magazine.

    However, when I was business editor of a major regional morning newspaper I once got a bollocking from the then managing director because we held back on a story about a local estate agency which had completed an MBO. They were a major advertisers but on the said day of the MBO we had three exclusives which were all subsequently followed up by the nationals. Good journalism prevailed.

    On the day of publication I was given a dressing down – in front of my staff! – along the lines “these people pay your f**king wages.” Of course I ran the story the next day.

    That was a one-off though – we’re talking about ten years ago but I suspect it is more prevalent now especially in certain trade titles and local newspapers. And, sadly, I can quiet believe some titles would use the Overnight Editor’s Chief Executive A Twat’s press release.

  3. Couldn't agree more, Amber.

    I work in a publications department of a regional paper and we get such requests all the time.

    You've just got to keep your editorial integrity about you, though.

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