By Stefan Pertz
Editorial departments of most publications are often in contact with public relations agencies or public relations departments. They are a crucial part of the media landscape as they provide a service that links brands and media outlets. The role of public relations (PR) is often defined as “The professional maintenance of a favourable public image by a company or other organization or a famous person.” In many cases this is done through the dissemination of releases to the media for publication in their outlets.
Depending on where you stand, some publishers don’t publish anything unless there is an ad coming with it. Others may heavily depend on the access to ready-made content in the shape of press releases. Within the scope of my work as Editor for Asian Trucker / Asian Buses, I have long ago decided that we should publish what we think our readers would value as useful. If there is an advertising contract in place it might mean that the item may get a bit more exposure. Or not. We also have some advertisers who seem to be happy with just the ad placement without ever having editorial support. I think it is fair to say that editors would be biased in favour of those who support the media.
Amazingly, even with the lockdown press releases continue to come. In great numbers. And almost exclusively from brands that in a decade have NEVER spent a single cent on advertising with us. Many of those brands behind the releases have also never had time to allow us to introduce ourselves. And none of the PR agencies that send out these releases have the budget or authority to place an ad to push things along. Without exception, when asked for a tiny contribution, with amazing payment terms mind you, to keep publications going during this time, there is no answer. Not one of these releases has made it out of my inbox.
Now everyone is singing the same song “We need to work together to make it though this.” While this is a very agreeable notion, so far, it seems that those brands coming out with press releases don’t seem to realise that it takes two to tango. A writer friend of mine was musing that he would have to have a very specific message for PR professionals after the lockdown as he may not have any media outlets left to place the releases as many publications are shutting down.
And then we have the releases or information coming from brands that have been supportive of media for a long time. These are the ones that may now be benefitting from their longstanding relationship with media through advertising campaigns. I don’t think anyone would turn down the request to publish something now from a business partner that has for years paid for ads. It simply pays, in times like these, to have supported the media with hard dollars and cents. It is important to have good content, but it does not pay the bills.
Editors, writers and publishers I have spoken to have the same question: How come brands can spend on the PR agencies, but ‘don’t have a budget’ to place ads in the mediums that they want to use to get their message out. They want the medium to use their resources to help them make money while they are unwilling to return the favour. While the PR agencies surely won’t work for free, even in times like this, the publisher will be left with bills to pay while there is no income. It makes it clear to publishers where their loyalties have to be.
Once the dust settles, the publishing community will take stock of whom they could count on for support. Publishers, editors and other media professionals will remember those who stood by them when they were most needed.