PR Console

On the heels of the solid financial results from Microsoft, and specifically the boffo sales of the XBox 360 — did I hear six million? — a columnist for one of the “enthusiast” gaming pubs followed up his article , “PR Manipulation 101: How to Get Good Coverage For Bad Games,” with another condescending diatribe about the profession, “The Ethics of Videogame PR.”

“PR wranglers, on the other hand, owe their sole duty to the products that they are pitching. Their duty is simply to make their current product look good no matter what it takes (without harming coverage of future products, of course). Whether through spin, building of relationships, buttering up targets, bribery-in-effect or outright lying, their duty is simple: make the game look good.”

The pseudonymous “Mr. Media Coverage,” writing for GameDaily Biz, which chronicles the world of “tricks” and “cheats,” makes some reasonable points including something I’ve said over the years: the client may pay the bills, but the trust we earn from journalists is our real bread and butter.

Nevertheless, Mr. Media Coverage’s overall insinuation that the tenets of media relations are “tricks” designed to delude and deceive is so, well, Pac-Man’ish. Sure, there are PR practitioners who’ll sell their souls for the quick hyperbolically-fueled media hit — unfortunately, too many of them. Still, the vast majority of PR pros know the value of cultivating long-term media relationships, especially since journos still have the firmer grip on the media relations game controller…for now.

Maybe, as this columnist nearly admits, the problem really does rest on the media side of the equation?

“The vast majority of videogame journalists never set a foot in journalism school. For the most part, that’s probably a good thing. However, journalist ethics don’t happen by accident; without some kind of training strategy built into every publication, new editors will simply have to learn the rules by themselves. Until they do, they are prime targets for PR shenanigans.”

How’s this, Mr. Media Coverage? We’ll continue to teach our ascendant colleagues about how an open and honest dialogue with reporters, reviewers, etc. will rack up more media points over the long haul, if you refrain from castigating most of our profession as unethical and deceitful, while recognizing that some in your profession also have flaws, e.g., think free product.

We will, however, pay heed to your threat:

“The enthusiast press’ most powerful weapons against PR tactics are a long memory and the ability to hold a grudge. After all, if PR owes its highest duty to a line of products, we can make sure they think carefully about every tactic if every dishonest dealing has long term effects. “