Spin city – when PRs spin too far

Blanket press releases can do more damage than good.  If you don’t have any news don’t use ‘the news’ to create some.

When Prince William and Kate Middleton announced their impending nuptials the PR world went wild trying to spin the Royal Wedding to their favour.  They may have got engaged in Kenya but it seemed every country thought themselves fit for their honeymoon.  Ten Manchester Street in Marlyebone went so far as to offer any engaged couples named William and Kate free afternoon tea.  The Daily Telegraph in London published the best (or the worst) of PR spin that week, you can read it and weep here.

It’s no different down under.  Australian media are bracing themselves for an onslaught of (more) Oprah themed press releases in the next week as the Oprah Winfrey Show broadcasts four Aussie filmed episodes.

When her visit to Australia was announced last September the PR network went wild.  One Airlie Beach apartment hotel sent out an alert announcing Oprah’s arrival in Hamilton Island.  Only trouble was Oprah didn’t go to Airlie Beach, she didn’t stay at this apartment complex and neither did any of her audience.  Talk about curveball.

Some businesses in Australia even see the Queensland floods as a marketing opportunity.  While Virgin Blue’s offer to convert frequent flyers points into cash donations to Queensland flood relief appeared admirable I (and some fellow journos) couldn’t help but think it was also a great way to get their members to dilute their frequent flyer points.  Similarly Hayman island is going to donate $50 (of your money) from every new accommodation booking this month.  How do I know? I read the press release.

If Virgin Blue were flying SES rescuers to the flood stricken regions for free or Hayman was giving away holidays for displaced persons it would make a better release like Fisher & Paykel setting up a free laundry service in Brisbane for flood victims to wash their clothes.

It reminds me of a five star hotel in Queenstown that once thought it newsworthy to send out a press release about their concierge attending an international congress.  He didn’t win an award, he didn’t meet a celebrity, he didn’t raise funds for a charity, he simply got on a plane and went to a conference.  It’s a bit like sending out a media alert when your IT manager goes to an interstate computer workshop.  Why?

These kind of press releases damage your brand. They are not newsworthy and are a waste of space in a journalist’s inbox. Stretching the truth for a story is like claiming Katie Perry as the childhood neighbour of your twice removed second cousin.  It holds no kudos or credibility.

If you don’t have something relevant to say then better not to say it at all.

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