My Forever Pet Peeve: Publicity=Public Relations

Did Best Buy Do Itself a PR Favor With Pricing Error?

$9.99 TV Sparked Backlash in the Blogosphere, but Also Got Retailer Lots of Free Attention

By Rich Thomaselli

–> The hottest story on the web today was none of the above. Burning up the blogosphere and Twitter was the remarkable “pricing error” that occurred on the website for electronics retailer Best Buy, which — for a little while, anyway — had a 52-inch Samsung high-definition TV listed for $9.99.

The mistake, however, has led to a flood of free PR for Best Buy — good, bad or indifferent.

Jamie O’Donnell, co-founder of the San Francisco-based firm SEO-PR, said this is the state of public relations in the social media era.

“The blogosphere is PR today,” Mr. O’Donnell told AdAge.com. “What gets created in the blogosphere, on Twitter, and how that resonates to audiences is PR. I guarantee that many corporations today are going in, searching around, and seeing who the opinion leaders are on the web.”

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No, I am not going to write about Best Buy’s latest controversy.

But when I read this AdAge article, the first thing that came to my mind is: “Here we go again.” When bad things happened, it’s bad PR although PR folks at Best Buy probably had nothing to do with it.

This story on Best Buy’s pricing error once again showed the ongoing misperception the media have toward public relations. As evidenced in a study by Kinsky and Callison who found that media referred to PR and related terms negatively more often than positively or neutrally.

The media often equate publicity–good or bad–to public relations. The fact is publicity or promotion is just one of many functions of public relations. Those working in the industry know that public relations is more than just getting words out to targeted audiences. And it’s certainly not PR in its truest sense when the buzz was negative and unplanned.

So I don’t think I would agree with Mr. O’Donnell when he said what is created in blogosphere is PR today.  We don’t see customer complaints and law suits as PR, do we?

Call it a bad publicity, controversy, scandal, crisis or whatever it actually is. But do not confuse it with public relations.

Posted via web from Gee’s Viewfinder

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