September 24, 2012
Dear PR Pro,
You probably did a fist pump after reading David Carr’s column last week, “The Puppetry Of Quotation Approval.”
According to Carr, journalists are increasingly acquiescing to PR requests to be manipulated, often in the form of approving quotes. In exchange for access, the journalist agrees to the run quotes by the organization for approval.
Carr summarizes the issue as thus:
It used to be that American businesses either told reporters to go away or told them what they wanted to know. Now, a reporter trying to interview a business source is confronted by a phalanx of factotums, preconditions and sometimes a requirement that quotations be approved. What pops out of that process isn’t exactly news and isn’t exactly a news release, but contains elements of both.
Don’t allow Mr. Carr’s taste for spelling-bee words – factotum, an employee who does all kinds of work – to distract you from the big picture.
Your belief that this tug-of-war between journalists and PR has been going on for years and if a journo periodically falls into the moat, it counter-balances the “Dear PR Lady” posts, is misplaced.
Whether you represent the Kumquat Growers or another software company disrupting the status quo, it’s in our best interest for the public to perceive the media as credible and objective. That’s what enables the storytelling in The New York Times to wield 10X the influence of a news release. So when your company appears in The New York Times, even if the story is balanced with both positives and negatives, the net takeaway is still a positive for the company’s public profile.
But here’s the problem –
The media’s credibility and objectivity continue to erode as illustrated by the Pew Research study below.
Back to the Carr lament, journalists agreeing to let organizations approve their quotes only accelerates this erosion.
What can we do to help?
Glad you asked.
I propose we start a campaign to bolster the credibility of our journalistic brothers called “Just Say No to No.”
In other words, we band together to say no to the proposition:
- No quote approval = no access
Because it seems that journalists can’t say “no.”