23.08.18 / Posted by jirehconsult

Sometimes I ponder what makes news that is worthy to be published in the media these days.

I have been working with a lot of brands and companies – big brands, small brands, big budget, small budget, average-kind-of budget, local companies, international companies, you name it, I have probably worked on it before. That’s the beauty of working in an agency. From all these clients, some are big advertisers, some are not, and some do not advertise at all.

Big advertisers or not, both can be quite a challenge for us in PR.

One thing is for sure, media will have no problem recognising the brand or company if they are big advertisers. Some publications even have a dedicated person or team to service the account. So for PR, it is easier for us to get them to attend events and publish our news. Even when we send two or more press releases in a week, our news still gets published!

Well, the down side is clients can be so demanding and insist that the media follow what they want to a T, just because they spend a hefty amount of money with that publication. If the client wants the media to attend the event, so it must be. When this happens, we as PR can be stuck between the client’s demand and the editor’s constraints.

Does this mean that clients who don’t advertise are better? Nope! Certainly not at all. In this scenario, we have to face another kind of challenge.

Often when I pitch a story or invite the media to a function, they would ask me, “Is your client an advertiser?”

And when I answer, “No, the client is not an advertiser”, I will inevitably be met with, “Oh, sorry. We only cover those who advertise.” Of late, this encounter has risen in frequency as media struggle to survive in the face of shrinking ad dollars and digital cannibalism.

It is harder to get a story, no matter how good, into prominent media titles these days when money takes over. This harks back to my question of what is the value of published stories in the media these days. Do not get me wrong here. I am not saying all news or stories in the media are paid for.

It is just that we in the PR line has to work twice if not thrice as hard to get the desired publicity for our clients, especially for small, unknown brands and to top it off, if they are not advertisers. 

Nevertheless, as a PR practitioner, I can never deny the benefits I can have when my clients spend millions of Ringgit in advertisements in numerous media. It is definitely easier for us to get media support. But I don’t entirely enjoy this benefit. Ethically speaking, it’s not wrong but it’s not right either.

If we as PR practitioners depend solely on client’s advertising budget, what then is the role of PR in the picture? What’s the point of them having us to service them? Personally, I am always challenged to use the ‘we are advertisers’ ace card in order to get good media attendance and coverage. We should refrain less it looks as though the PR practitioner lacks the competency to attract with a good, compelling story. From another perspective, it can also appear as though any story can be published as long as the brand or company is big advertiser.

Compared to 5 years ago, the PR and media industry has definitely changed tremendously. We need to work a lot harder, be a whole lot more creative and think beyond outside the box to craft stories. Well, to look at it positively, we can adopt what Walt Disney used to say, “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.” So, I’ll take that as a good challenge!

August 2018