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In Dealing with grumpy editors, Dan Kaufman writes:

I don’t understand why PRs give editors exclusives – because for the most part it does the PR and their client more harm than good.

You see, if a story is newsworthy then it’ll run anyway – and if it isn’t then giving it as an exclusive isn’t going to make much difference.

Kaufman goes on to say if a PR gives an editor a decent story as an exclusive, it will upset other editors. He says piss off, but this is a family website.

This happens all the time here in New Zealand. The practice is counter-productive.

It can certainly destroy trust a PR person or company has built.

Exclusive… oh yeah?

Waking-up, reading a so-called exclusive story then later in the day getting a press release covering the same ground happens often in New Zealand.

Often this happens when a public relations person thinks they might get sympathetic or splashy coverage of their story if they play favourites.

PRs have approached me offering to trade an exclusive for a favourable position: often the cover of a print title. They may even ask to vet the copy in return for the story. This, in effect, can mean an editor enters into a conspiracy to mislead readers.

Often stories ‘leaked’ this way are rubbish – they read more like advertising than news. Editors giving the press release an early run are manipulated into becoming part of a marketing exercise.

My response to this is to stop trusting the PR person behind the leak. This means they’ll have difficulty slipping any more of their propaganda past me. In extreme cases I’ve ignored any further communication from the source. And I’ve been known to make a formal complaint to the client. In one case I had to tell a PR’s other clients I could no longer work with their agent.

And anyway, if a company thinks it is that important to get their message in a publication they should look at advertising.

One thought on “False power of exclusive press release

  1. I’m with you Bill on the lack of real PR value from exclusives, especially beat-ups.
    But I think we need to appreciate that exclusives still occur because sometimes the interests of journalists, organisations and audiences combine. I think that all of those parties have calculated, consciously or sub-consciously, that the exclusive works for them.
    Firstly – journalists want stories, and preferably stories their peers do not have. They would like it if they don’t have to do too much work for it. Another factor is the realisation that some ‘news’ is validly just mildly interesting content. It fills up space. It fills up audience time reading it. Everyone’s happy.
    Secondly – organisations want coverage, and preferably coverage their peers don’t have. They would like it if they didn’t have to do anything extraordinary, because they’ve already got plenty of pretty average normal work-a-day stuff which is interesting to them.
    I don’t use exclusives. I have used them in the past, mostly when a story was a bit weak and you needed to spend time with a journalist to give it a lot of background colour. Now-days I can tell the client not to bother, or I can convince them to do something interesting enough to justify widespread coverage.
    There is one other factor behind exclusives that you haven’t considered: relationships. People do things for each other as the oil of their professional relationship. For PR people and journalists, the oil is information, angles and ‘stories’.

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