We have a band, also referred to as the artist, their management, the record label and the press/media agent and maybe some others. All send Public Relations (PR) and promotional material to various organizations for publication or broadcast. It is great to have all these people working to promote the artist. But, what happens if they get out of sync? What happens if they don't communicate with each other? What happens when it all goes wrong?
It is not unusual that I receive the exact same press release for a new release, festival lineup, charity role or tour from multiple press agencies all at the same time. This is totally acceptable and is certainly better than not receiving any. It is easy to scan them for the best photo or possibly links to additional information so multiple copies are always welcome. If they are all different, it is actually easier to create a unique story from them. Usually there are no more than three verbatim copies.
Another scenario is when the band, their label, their publicity agent and possibly their management all send significantly different releases relating to a single event. All of these are totally different and may contain links to multi-media, social media sites and other important yet differing content. As a user of this information, I try and integrate pieces from each of these into the article that gets published. Usually this isn't a problem but, with four different sources and each believing they are in control, problems do arise.
I frequently get a call from one of the four press release suppliers demanding that I remove content that another person in charge sent because they wanted it included. At this point, chaos breaks out. The four parties obviously never communicated as a team on what they wanted released. The left hand didn't know what the right hand was doing. In some cases, the left hand didn't even know there was a right hand! If one party sends something that another party doesn't like, it isn't the fault of the person who sent the undesired content, it instantly becomes the fault of the person who published it. Keep in mind that what was published is content which was sent for publication by an authorized member of the artist's team. It was not something conjured up by the publishing or broadcasting agency ultimately blamed for its public release.
How many times have I heard one of the four members tell me that the other three are not in charge only to get a call a few minutes later from another member telling me that they are and that the first person who called me was wrong. It happens at least once a month. It is not an isolated incident here or there. It is common practice. It is also never the fault of any of the four outlets that I receive bad information from. It is always the publisher's fault for receiving the information, failing to read the minds of the other three PR members and ultimately for publishing content that the publisher was requested to publish.
Awards, festivals and other events not related directly to new releases are always a challenge. We had a festival state that a top artist was a confirmed headliner for their event. They had posters printed, banners being run and a full on publicity campaign running. They issued multiple press releases about their event and their confirmed headline artist. We ran an article on the event as our headline article for the day. Within hours, the artist's management called and emailed us to inform us that their artist was NOT performing at the event. They demanded we retract the story. They claimed there were no booking contracts signed and the artist didn't even know about it. I contacted the producers of the event who informed me they had signed contracts through the booking agent -- not the same people as the artist's management. The artist's management adamantly denied any such document existed and, in fact, the artist would be performing at some other venue in a different state on the specified date.
We gambled and ran with the story because the date and venue were on the artist's website and the talent buyer had signed contracts. Two months later, we received a press release from the artist's management announcing the artist was going to be headlining the festival. I promptly returned that manager's lies and hate emails back to them and asked them why they lied to me? They never answered and, shortly after, the artist soon announced they were under new management.
We had a case where an artist announced they were joining a popular band. The artist sent out his own press release. The first commmunication to us was demanding to know how we knew this. The band was upset in that they wanted to be the source of the initial announcement. The problem was made worse because the artist had also announced his move via all the social network sites so, it wasn't really a secret or a major news flash. We ran with it. The band was upset. The management was at a loss what to do and requested we pull the story. While it all worked out in the end, the entire situation could have been avoided by prior communication throughout the band, management, press agent and the new artist.
Complaints always occur after publication because the party creating and releasing the questionable press release failed to send it to the other members of the team -- only to the publication and broadcast companies. Once the cat is out of the bag, it is difficult, if not impossible, to put it back in. Copies and virtual copies exist everywhere. Social Media links by others cannot be edited by us. RSS feed content, Internet archives, syndicated users, and other copies exist all over the world-wide-web. Then there are people who use our content and rewrite it for their own content further spreading the news.
All do this with good intentions. But, requesting us to pull something results in all of our competitors continuing to carry the information. We end up being penalized by publishing content from an authorized source and then having to retract it. Our competitors love this as they don't receive requests to pull content that they received from us. They win - we lose. While pulling it is the right thing to do, all of the agony and animosity could have easily been eliminated entirely by simple communication between the various PR members.
How does a publisher avoid being the target in a PR superiority contest? The best option would be if there was one and only one person in charge. While many artists have such a plan in place, the sad reality is that scenario isn't done by all. One way we could eliminate the problem is to contact all the team members prior to publication of any article to get their prior approval. Of course, doing so means all content would be published weeks late or possibly never at all. We could always wait to see what our competitors do and then be last to carry anything by being overly cautious. Or, we run our articles knowing that we are going to upset somebody at least once a month. In nearly 22 years and almost 100,000 articles written or posted, our batting average is pretty good. While we may do an edit here and there, we have had to pull less than a half dozen stories of which half of those were admittedly our own fault.
It is extremely rare that we yank an article once posted. If we received the information from an authorized source, then we feel comfortable with it and its intent is for publication, it may get published. In every case where a PR conflict happened, it was always a case of all the team players not communicating with each other prior to sending us a release for publication. We do not take ownership of their communication issues. I encourage the key stakeholders of the PR process to communicate better among themselves and agree on what message they desire to release prior to releasing anything.