“Journalism is printing what someone else does not want published; everything else is public relations.”
Let’s open a newspaper. You see news about war, crime and disaster. But where do all the other stories come from?
- “Vintage flower dresses spotted on the red carpet”
- “57% of millennials drink milk alternatives”
- “People born after 2010 will never buy a gasoline car”
Journalists of course. They wake up, brew a fresh pot of coffee, take out their notepad and hit the streets. Ready for another day of news-gathering.
Well, not really. You see journalists are lazy. Just like us. They have mood swings, annoying colleagues and an overflowing inbox. The Public Relations industry knows this. If they craft a story that sounds newsworthy a journalist is likely to publish it. The journalist is happy with an easy story and the PR firm gains exposure for their client. So, can the PR firm just make something up? No, PR firms don’t lie. Instead, they tell the truth in the most favorable way for their client. They ignore the rest.
PR firms don’t send out stories at random. They do it as part of a bigger campaign. They try to get into as many publications at the same time to create hype. Because if we see something repeated by multiple sources we feel like there must be a new trend we don’t want to miss out on.
The funny thing is, once you see it you can’t unsee it. Press tours of blockbuster movies are notorious for it. The cast repeats the same 3 stories in all interviews. The stories form the narrative which is deemed most likely to hype the movie.
Chain the Truth
Growth hackers (people who have to quickly scale a start-up with limited resources) also discovered ways to get their message published. While PR firms rely on good connections. Growth hackers are nobodies. However, they can create a chain of truth. It works like this:
They start out by sending their story to a couple of small blogs. If they manage to get published they take the blog and send it to a couple of slightly bigger blogs. This creates a snowball effect. They use the smaller blogs for credibility. They can now go to bigger publications and say “I’ve found this story, maybe it’s interesting for you as well”. The big publication think they’ve found an upcoming story and publish it.
There are many techniques like this. So if you read an article. Take a second to think, who started it?
Open a news website. Which stories do you think originated from a PR company? Are mint scented candles really making a comeback or does a PR firm want to spread that narrative?