The PR / advertising disconnect

I know I tend to spend all my rant power on broken media models, but I’ve had reason lately to ponder the relationship between PR and advertising.
PR people wonder why there’s sometimes resentment towards them from media folk — I don’t think it is actually because of anything PR professionals do per se, but rather because of the utter disconnect between most businesses public relations and advertising. And I don’t think it is generally front-of-mind for most media companies because of the church-state separation. But as someone who lives in both worlds, I’ve found myself seething lately over repeated scenarios like this:

Do they really work together?
Do they really work together?

Company X’s PR people inundate you with pitches and requests. Now at PegNews, we pick up almost anything that’s local, so the hit rate is pretty high. But let’s say we go the extra mile for Company X’s PR folks, making corrections; posting numerous items; adding multimedia, etc. PR person may even say thanks and note that we’re the one outlet that always finds a way to help get the word out.
So, even though there is no stated or tacit quid pro quo, it’s maddening when Company X buys a massive media schedule that covers print, online, TV and radio and doesn’t include us. Even worse, doesn’t even consider us or meet with our ad reps.
Now I’m not suggesting they should just blindly buy us just because we ran their releases. But I know that we’re at least as good a buy as the other dozen media they bought. That frustrates me not only on our behalf, but on Company X’s too. They are spending good money on PR professionals who are placing content and know that it is getting response. But, I presume, they aren’t even getting their input in making a media buy.
I did an informal survey today via Facebook and Twitter, and from PR, advertising and media folk got a universal agreement that PR and advertising don’t generally communicate, whether in-house or out.
Seems a wasted opportunity for all involved.

A couple followup notes:

  • We find most PR folk very accomodating about passing on our info to ad folk. And we find they generally have little to no sway.
  • In the end, we’re a business and the Company X’s of the world are businesses. It seems that half the relationship works and the other half doesn’t. The Chinese Wall is probably why that’s been so for so long. As that wall begins to crumble during the mediapocalypse of the aughties, I wonder how that relationship will change.

Mike Orren is the Chief Product Officer of The Dallas Morning News; President of Belo Business Intelligence; husband to Crystal Orren; and a Mungarian at Munger Place Church in Dallas, TX. All opinions herein are mine alone.

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