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When is PR Not PR?
By: Gerard E. Mayers
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We all have, I think, heard the old joke of “When is a door not a door?” The answer is, “when it’s a jar!”

Well, I have been wondering for a bit if we can all tell when PR is not PR.

Say what?

You are probably wondering, when can PR not be PR? Well, perhaps when it is, particularly in the B2B realm, taken and treated like it is an ad. Is this legal? If so, is it ethical?
It might be legal in some circles to treat B2B PR as ad material, but in my opinion, it is not ethical. Some years back, when I was the PR Manager for an engineering services firm located in NJ, I sent a B2B product release to a trade magazine in another country. This, of course, was after contacting the particular trade pub and asking if it accepted product press releases. The positive response from the publication led me to believe that it did. Then, some weeks later, came a bill in the mail for the very product press release I’d submitted.
I went to my CEO at the time and asked him if he still wanted to have the product release, even though that particular publication was treating it as an ad, in the publication. He approved it, but the experience left a bit of sour taste in my mouth. I personally believe that, if a publication treats product releases as an ad, or at the very least as an advertorial, should it not be upfront about it? Not sharing that vital piece of information seems to be, to me, unprofessional, dishonest, and possibly unethical.
What do you think? Any comments or thoughts? Should we, as flacks, demand honesty in our PR dealings, especially with trade media?

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About the Author
Gerard E. "Gerry" Mayers writes about PR and other relevant topics for PR professionals. A former PR manager for Sensor Products, Inc. (currently based in Madison, NJ), he lives in Milford, NJ.
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