Will PR replace Advertising? | radioinfo

Will PR replace Advertising?

Sunday 13 May, 2018
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Opinion from Scott Mayman

It's great to have the freedom of your own private business, to spend time researching something that you would think other media operators should've got a handle on already.

Some have but many have not even bothered to follow up.

I've been busy over the past few months, researching and making one-on-one contact with business leaders,  retailers,  and fellow broadcasters, trying to get to the bottom of what is happening with radio revenue - and of course, how news is sourced. 

My findings are worse than originally thought - and it looks like, it's only going to get worse, unless someone does something very soon.

I recently had a discussion with the General Manager of a leading Australian retail outlet who was paying a public relations company thousands of dollars to spread the word about his product.

He had previously worked on a direct one-on-one sales plan with individual broadcasters and was pleased with the benefits.

What he didn't realise is that the PR company just took his money to distribute media releases to broadcasters.

His business declined.   

Many broadcasters are taking the view that content, distributed by a PR company is nothing more than free advertising.

Broadcasters are putting their foot down. Not only is it a loss of revenue for the local media outlet but it's also a set-back for the individual business operator who wants his or her message to be distributed to the local market place.

The big winner is the PR company - but for how much longer?

Most often the PR company is based out of town or out of state which further removes that local message from getting into the market place.

Back to the retail outlet General Manager - when he looked at his figures,  and realised he was wasting money with a PR company that wasn't getting the results he needed. He immediately changed his mind and went back to the direct sales approach through the local broadcaster, bypassing the PR scenario. He's hoping he hasn't left it too late.

Over the years millions of media releases have been sent to newsrooms in radio, TV, online and print. and some, with commercially heavy content, have slipped through the cracks and to get air-time.

While a big win for PR companies - it has contributed to the decline of direct sales opportunities for local media not to mention questionable false facts being published or aired.

Many will say, ‘This is a sign of the times,’ but unless more media outlets start a push back by refusing to broadcast content from a media release,  it'll just be a question of time before PR companies start replacing the National Sales arms of local media. In the meantime,  the local business operator will be the ones who'll suffer,  along with declining revenues for local broadcasters.

About the Author

Scott Mayman is an award winning radio presenter and journalist - both in Australia and the United States.  Scott is currently host of the Brekky Show on Radio 97 / FM104.1, Gold Coast as well as CBS News Correspondent.  He's also the Director of his own company "Radio and News Partnerships".

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2 Comments

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Parallax View
14 May 2018 - 12:27am
Scott, I feel your passion but I’m not convinced that the odd media release that smuggles a commercial message into a news bulletin is a serious threat to ad revenues. Public Relations and advertising are different tools in the marketers’ tool box. Like a hammer and a screw driver, both are often needed to complete a job properly. But one can’t be effectively used as a substitute for the other.

PR done right can often provide useful content in return for a “plug.” But a “plug” here and there cannot replace an ad campaign with heavy daily repetition of announcements.
Anthony The Koala
14 May 2018 - 12:08pm
My concern are news items on radio and television which purport to be news but are really PR. For example early in the year, towards the end of the December-January school holidays, Channel 9's news featured a non-story about fulfilling a student's stationery needs before starting school. It was nothing but free publicity for the stationery provider. The talent featured a store manager saying something like "...we have pens....we have notepads....". Do we really need a story since people have shopping for stationery needs before schools?

Then there are interviews on radio which purport to be an issue on the medical need of a patient with a particular life threatening ailment and the government must either legislate to change laws regarding the medication's legal status OR include the medication on the PBS because it it is prohibitively expensive. Instead of promoting the medication, a real-life patient is sent to radio studio to plead for the inclusion of a drug. If it's part of a heavy PR, the patient and or loved one is interviewed over time and it includes the medical practitioner.

There is nothing wrong with putting a vital medical issue in front of the audience, it may well apply to some members of the audience that may be afflicted with a life threatening disease. BUT please, why doesn't the interviewer or commentator make an announcement at the start of the interview or campaigns that "...this segment is organized by the XYZ PR company in the interests of the XXX pharmaceutical company supported by the College of a particular medical speciality"? What is there to be ashamed of the PR company, pharmaceutical company or a particular medical body in making such declaration. It may even add to the credibility of the story.

Thank you,
Anthony of Belfield
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