Wednesday, April 27, 2011

When Is It Ok To Avoid The Media?

Yesterday I got a call from an MSNBC journalist I worked with on a story a few months back. She was concerned a number of calls she made to my client for follow-up information on the story weren't being returned. "Is he avoiding me for a reason?" she asked. This question sent a chill up my spine. Anytime a reporter is asking that question you are no longer in the driver's seat. I immediately called the client to get to the bottom of the problem and was told that although he had received a voice mail and email he planned to get back to her when he could but had been very busy. I explained reporters don't understand that- all they care about is their deadline and because this reporter's work had been particularly positive for our clients we needed to jump through hoops for her.

However there are sometimes when it is perfectly justifiable to not prioritize a reporter's inquires. A recent case makes the point. Here’s what happened:

A recent CNN article called NPD’s numbers (in so many words) useless and incomplete. NPD is a market research company that provides information on (among other things) video game sales.

Electronic Arts corporate communications executive Tiffany Steckler went so far as to tell CNN, “We see NPD's data as a misrepresentation of the entire industry.”

Two weeks after the CNN report, NPD is pulling the public relations equivalent of taking its ball and going home.

According to, those who subscribe to NPD's reporting will continue to receive the sales reports, but are unable to publish the data without permission.

NPD analyst Anita Frazier, in an email to IGN, responded to suggestions that the company was freezing out the media:
"We have heard from our clients and retail partners that NPD information is increasingly out in the public domain without proper attribution, incorrect context and in other ways that is not in the best interest of our clients or the industry. … We are not freezing out the media as it has been portrayed. Instead, we are looking to work even more directly with the media than we already do to ensure our information and insights are used responsibly."
This situation raises a deeper issue in the video game industry: The lack of an independent retail data provider (at least one that is willing to share its data publicly).

It seems that NPD’s public relations choices here could end up blowing the doors open to more media-friendly competition.And holding the media more responsible for erroneous reporting.

We employed a similar tactic with the Dr. Conrad Murray case. Instead of calling each individual media outlet with our news or any developments/responses in the investigation, we set up an online media center where we posted statements. These statements were carefully worded and each media outlet got the alert that they were posted at the same time. If we stuck to the script with everyone we were fine. It was only when we got caught off guard and made statements independent of these posted statements that we got into trouble. Lesson learned: keep your message clear, consistent, and constant.

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