When controversy spells disaster for PRs and Press alike

January 10, 2010

Been thinking about this, as we roll into a new year and editors get hit with PR pitches from Agencies with new clients.

There was this awful example of PRs using controversy to court media coverage recently – it backfired to the point the advertising campaign was pulled. Let’s face it, claiming that career women make bad mothers is bound to attract press attention, but at what cost to the integrity of the client?

Another example of PRs courting controversy to win column inches came from the www.beautifulpeople.com camp, too. The management allegedly removed 5,000 members from their exclusive online dating site after New Year, stating they were ‘too fat’ to be considered beautiful enough for membership of the site.

Some claimed it was a brilliant PR coup, gaining the site global coverage online, on radio news slots, newspaper and magazines et al. The difficulty was, following the rush of media interest to the site, the management had a sub-standard server in place, thus effectively stopping the press from seeing what all the fuss was about.

The site itself is, actually, far from ‘beautiful’ it would appear on later inspection. A PR coup? More like short-term, 1-hit wonder PR coverage. Hardly inspiring for the media, the potential customers or future potential ‘beautiful’ online daters who might have considered subscribing to the online service.

It’s the longer-term, well thought out and planned, genuine ‘hook & hold’ PR campaigns which make a difference to the media: the ongoing stories of human interest, the different, unusual, unique and amusing. These win over the Press every time.

Not vain attempts to pull visitors to a PR client’s site on the basis of negative controversy. A massive thumbs-down, guys.

Let’s face it, we’re being dumbed-down enough as it is, without elitist, shallow and vainglorious attempts such as this being forced onto the airwaves, internet and offline news pages. My old journalism lecturer would be shaking his head, I am sure, having spent decades passing on the basic editorial wisdom of ‘News IS people’ to many thousands of media students.


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