The Reputation of the PR Business

Is it any wonder that relationships between the press and PR organizations are so strained when both sides resort to stealth tactics and subterfuge?

The specific example that's set me off this morning is the news that certain publicists at well-known NY agency, Rubenstein PR, have apparently started obscuring caller ID when dialing up reporters. But in fairness to Rubenstein, it seems the technique they're adopting is one they've learned from observing the behaviour of certain media outlets.

The story appeared online at New York Magazine's Daily Intelligencer last week and was also picked up over at Gawker.

In brief - it seems that certain large media organizations have, for some time, practiced the simple ruse of "fixing" their outbound caller ID - so calls from the offices of the NY Times, for example, show up as 111-111-1111. This is pretty sneaky in itself, and so it's not surprising to see an agency turning the tables.

According to the source quoted at the Intelligencer:

"...Rubenstein PR is doing something to their phone system, and now their number comes up as 111-111-1111. Which means that every reporter who uses Caller ID to avoid publicists is going to be thwarted. I just picked up my phone thinking maybe someone at the Times wanted to give me a job, and it was just a Rubenstein person."

As Jack O'Dwyer put it in a recent editorial:

"The reality of press/PR relations is that it's a daily bruising, knock-down battle. Both sides snub each other regularly, go over and around official contact points, and use just about "every trick in the book" to get what they want."

I know from my own experience and approach to this business that the situation Jack describes certainly doesn't have to be the way it always works. This is the kind of stuff both sides need to work on fixing.

There's a small, worrying coda to this story, by the way. I learned of the Daily Intelligencer's piece through the YoungPRPros group on Yahoo - where more than one person commenting on the report suggested that they saw no issues of ethics with this kind of behaviour. Am I missing something?

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