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Open Mike

Can't PR Firms 'Earn' Real Coverage?

Editor: As an owner of a top-five video- news-release firm, I am troubled by our industry's move into purchasing commercial time becoming the focus of what we do (“The Art of Manufactured News,” 3/28, page 24). Traditionally, PR has been about effective paid advocacy that “earns” real media for our clients after passing through journalistic gatekeepers. This new trend seems to be an admission by some that they are unable to successfully earn media for their clients.

Our industry needs to be concerned about labeling client-funded, fake news as “bona fide newscasts.” It misleads viewers. This unfortunate practice could limit our rights to advocate ethically for our clients, undermining the freedom of the press that should allow the real media to choose what it wants to air and how. These ethical missteps could damage our industry.

I also have concerns about whether clients receive a fair sense of the value of these purchases. Because many of these placements do not air at times rated by Nielsen, the client may often receive a projection of potential viewers rather than an actual Nielsen number, which would be far lower, if available. It also needs to be made clear to clients when this material is airing in commercial or infomercial blocks as opposed to within an actual station-produced or network program.

While “guaranteed placement” can be a nice value-added part of a video-news-release campaign, if it is accounting for more than 25% of the audience generated on a project, it is best left to the advertising people.

Douglas Simon

President & CEO

D S Simon Productions

New York