I was reading a post from BiteMarks, the blog of Bite Communications, an international PR agency.
Employee and author Aparna Gray was commenting on a PR blooper going around the internet.
A PR media brief ended up in the lap of the journalist instead of the client.
The document provided some unflattering information about the journalist.
The misstep then ended up in the New York Times.
The media brief also informed the client that 1) the PR agency would be allowed to review the article before publication and 2) they would be able to influence the timing of the article going to print.
On the first:
If a client or PR agency is being allowed to review the material before publication - money has changed hands.
Whenever money is involved for control of the final product, whether that be print or broadcast, you have moved away from public relations and into the arena of advertising.
It is not OK for a public relations agency to claim to have the right to review an article unless they have paid to do so - and then it is not PR.
And on the second:
Public relations can influence the media - and should.
When we provide story ideas, we influence the media.
When we provide quotes and sources, we influence the media.
When we point out our client is an expert available for interviews on a topic being debated on the front pages, we influence the media.
While the PR media brief presents the agency as being in control of the timing of the piece (an unethical claim) I do believe a PR agency can influence the timing of a published piece. If it serves the editor to wait for a better quote or key piece of information that I can provide, it makes their coverage better and serves them to wait.
But it would be just false to say that I had the power to direct the timing of the publication of a piece.
Every public relations professional has been told that the piece will be published, the interview will be on the evening news - and the item gets bumped or pushed to another date. It just happens.
Influence is not control.
And we do not control the media.