PR Response Via Adwords?

from the that's-one-tactic dept

I vaguely recall a similar story a couple years ago, though now I can’t find it, but the Nieman Journalism Lab has an article about how PR folks are starting to use targeted Google AdWords buys to respond to negative press coverage. It doesn’t seem like this sort of thing would really be all that effective, but the article discusses a PR guy who bought up AdWords on a variety of related keywords for the New Zealand Seafood Industry Council, after the NY Times came out with a negative story about overfishing. Of course, it looks like the guy also went over the line, claiming in one ad that the NY Times “apologizes for story,” when the truth is that it just apologized for its use of a photograph it didn’t have the rights to — not the story itself. Amusingly, the guy also buys the reporters’ own names as keywords in running his ads. I could see how that might intimidate the journalists (if they’re particularly thin-skinned) but it’s not really clear how that actually helps get the “other side” out.

What was potentially more interesting is that the NY Times (unlike many other newspaper websites) actually linked to the Council’s website within the story, and the Council changed the page that clickers ended up on to a rebuttal to the NY Times story, whereas before it had just been a page about the type of fish in question. That seems like a smart move by the Fish Council, though it makes you realize why some publications might be skeptical about linking out, especially when whoever operates the site being linked to has the opportunity to change the site.

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Comments on “PR Response Via Adwords?”

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Anonymous Coward says:

the best thing readers can do is notice

Nothing stopping the news sites from providing a screen shot of the page they originally linked to in the event that the subject of the article changes it. There are certain kinds of shady PR stunts that even print journalism readers can see through.

The news sites will just need to copy and preserve their source info, and they have to be willing to keep the conversation going instead of just printing it and forgetting it. Write the article. If they fire back, return the volley.

The Internet is a great tool for letting people make themselves look worse by trying to save face. Journalism would be strengthened if it could figure out how to stop fearing that tendency and instead let it do its thing.

Steve (profile) says:

The suprising thing

This isn’t the kind of thing that New Zealanders usually do. Normally, we’d just laugh it off. Or send a letter to the editor.

When I read your article, I couldn’t believe it. When I read the original article, though, it said that they hired a New York PR guy to do it. That makes so much more sense. We recognise our limitiations in the area of being complete bastards, and hire an expert in the field.

Jim McCarthy, CounterPoint Strategies says:

PR guy responds...

I’m perplexed at some of the criticisms of our approach that was described in the Nieman post. We are “intimidating” reporters? We are “complete bastards” for confronting the NYTimes? We are “spinning” and ignoring overfishing?

Let’s be clear about what transpired originally. Here is exactly what I wrote to the NYT editor before we ran any ads:

— You wrote an article saying an “argument is flaring” between fishermen and environmentalists — yet didn’t quote the fishermen.  You said our fishery is “losing its image” — yet offered us no response.  You quoted four different sources disparaging our practices, inferred throughout that we were acting irresponsibly, lifted a photo from our website and published it without permission — and yet couldn’t be bothered to phone us even once? — 

The Times either acknowledged or failed to respond to those points. Yet somehow people are concluding that by pointing all this out publicly, we are being aggressive or intimidating. Bizarre. Aren’t reporters routinely cited by name in published letters to the editor? If the whole Times story is about a debate on fishing practices, don’t the fisherman deserve to take part in the discourse?

Worth noting too that the thesis of Broad’s article turned out to be flat wrong. The limits on the Hoki fishery were increased by about 40 percent just a few weeks after the Times piece ran — precisely because of the health of the stock and sound fishing practices. Times readers, of course, remain unaware of that central fact — which again is why our clients are obliged to find ways to highlight it. Readers can assess for themselves whether the Times was fair or not but it seems ludicrous to begrudge the fisherman (or me as their PR guy) a place in the public discussion.

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