Previously, you may remember that we’d discussed some basic tips for PR trying to reach out to a games media outlet. It’s a fairly simple deal- make our lives easier and we’re more likely to want to work with you on any kind of project.
It seems like obvious enough advice- yet today’s topic is on the reverse of that. That is to say, we’re going to be taking a look at just how badly a real PR company can go when it comes to messing its relationship with media companies.
I need to stress that this isn’t a parable mixed with a dash of hyperbole either- this is a real story.
Note: This story was first published in the GamerBraves Newsletter. Subscribe to the newsletter for more content like this, published there first
1. Don’t Lie To Media
Look, when you have to scold a PR company the same way you would a child with ice cream on their cheeks feigning innocence, you’ve probably screwed up somewhere. It’s not even a PR-industry-exclusive piece of advice- I’m told that honesty is, in some circles, considered a superior policy.
And yet somehow, some companies seem intent on learning this the hard way. One company in particular seemed committed to this fantasy- promising things like exclusive interviews that not only weren’t exclusive, we weren’t even the first ones to get in there. By the time it was the night before our scheduled interview other media had not only done the interview, but they’d already had it published.
Look, we’re not monsters- if you couldn’t secure an exclusive, just say as much. It happens all the time, and accepting you screwed up is simply part and parcel of being an adult. We know how hard PR people can work to secure any kind of interview, the idea that you’d only find out it wasn’t an exclusive the night before, after other outlets published their interview speaks more to a lack of dictionary ownership than any kind of miscommunication.
Every writer’s job is literally to get their work seen as much as possible, and to read as much of other people’s work, too. That means there’s no way we’re not going to see what everyone else in our industry is up to.
2. Don’t Ask Media To Lie For You
There’s also the other end of this- after you’re done with your virtuous life of not lying, it’s probably best to combo it into “Don’t ask other people to lie on your behalf”. It’s no secret that a good chunk of the PR-Media relationship is built on advertorials- where the media accepts money for sponsored content.
As someone who’s job is built around telling people what to do, the media has an important relationship to maintain with its readers, and that means telling them when something is a recommendation made because we’d spent all weekend bingeing an anime and when something is a recommendation we might have been paid to make.
Yet despite this, some PR companies feel it necessarily to ask us to violate this trust by pretending sponsored content isn’t, well, sponsored. It’s happened before, where amid approvals we suddenly find notes telling us to not add our usual sponsored disclosures.
Look, if lying is bad, having someone lie for your benefit is worse. You have to respect your media partners’ editorial freedom- especially when it’s our necks on the line.
3. Don’t Lie To The Users
The last note is one that ultimately affects your integrity as a company. If you’re, say, launching an app, having no prior beta or early access, it’s probably best to not lie about having some huge install base before it’s even out.
You might think to yourself something to the tune of “it doesn’t affect our media partners”, you’re about as right as every 16-year-old who thought after a breakup that they could totally rock some bangs. Because at the end of the day one of the biggest roles of a media partner is acting as the in-between for a service and the users, and that ultimately makes it our problem if PR companies start telling lies direct to the users.
After all, if you’re willing to tell a bold-faced lie about things like your userbase to your readers, what’s to say you wouldn’t also tell a lie to anyone else?
Look, the local industry isn’t particularly large. Even “rival” companies, be it media outlets or PR firms, are usually on talking terms with each other. Worse still, it’s not baking recipes they’re talking- they’re usually talking shop.
With this in mind you really want to be on your best behavior. Just like any adjusted adult knows it’s best not to go around telling people how much you hate them, it’s probably best as a business with “relations” in your name to not piss off the people in your field by constantly making bizarre requests and claims.
As media partners, I’m sure there’s plenty going on under the hood of running a PR business that we couldn’t understand- but just as we respect your office enough to not sit outside your window with a boombox demanding an interview with Shigeru Miyamoto, it makes sense that we’d expect the same in return and not be made to deal with, and let’s face it, lies.
Like we said earlier, these aren’t parables about some hypothetical company- the same PR firm has somehow done all three of these, in what they can only describe as a series of miscommunications on their part. These problems don’t have to exist in the industry- and yet, there they are.
Things We Learned:
-Lying is, in fact, bad.
-It’s a small industry, you’re going to be found out.
-Consider that even if you don’t lie to your media partners, they may not want to work with a PR company associated with, well, liars.