By Greg Gerber
Editor, RV Daily Report
There is a disturbing trend among companies and organizations in the RV industry in which the firms send out press releases, then send an e-mail a few hours or days later asking that the release be taken down because “changes need to be made.”
It happened several times last week. The first time was when one department objected to the release issued by another department “without authorization.” The second time, the company CEO read the release on our website and decided the wording needed to be changed.
So the PR person insisted nearly six hours after the newsletter was published, that we take down the lead story in that day’s newsletter until a new version could be submitted. Yet, three days later, I’m still getting notifications that the newsletter is being shared, except now the lead story is “broken.”
Well, I for one am growing tired of this all too frequent little game, so RV Daily Report is announcing a policy change on accepting press releases.
If RV Daily Report receives a press release from an official representative of the company or organization, or picks up a story from the firms’ social media accounts or the wire services, and it’s published in one of our newsletters, the story will NOT be removed.
The CEO can fall to the ground, flail his arms and legs, and hold his breath until his face turns blue, but it won’t matter.
Corporate attorneys can call me puffing their chests and beating them like Tarzan while threatening all types of hideous sanctions, but they’ll speak to the hand, as my teenage daughters use to say.
As a dad of daughters only and someone who grew up surrounded by females, I’ve endured more drama than any male should ever face in a lifetime. As a result, I’ve developed immunity to it.
So, as an “ego-driven, tabloid aggregator” – as a Coast executive once called me – I’m changing the rules, and we’re doing so out of necessity because it’s not fair to our readers. This problem is also happening with increased regularity to the point I must deal with this situation multiple times a week.
It’s not like this is 1990 or even 2000 in that a press release would be sent for publication in a magazine, and it could be swapped out for a new release the next day without anyone being the wiser.
From the moment we hit the publish button to push content to our website, a number of things automatically happen. The first is that Google almost immediately indexes the content and pushes notifications to people based on keywords they are following. The speed with which I get notices from Google that we have published something is staggering some days.
Once published in a magazine, a press release can’t be withdrawn, and the same should hold true for stories posted to the Internet.
It takes time to edit a release to ensure it complies with Associated Press guidelines, and to correct the spelling, capitalization and punctuation errors that almost all releases contain, and soften the tone so it doesn’t sound like a commercial, but rather a news story. To have to repeat the process in a deadline-driven environment is a waste of time, especially when a few words or a whole sentence are often the only things ever changed.
When our newsletter is published, not only does it go out to thousands of people, but links to it are immediately disseminated to social media accounts when it can be picked up and shared by others. So, after 18,000 people have seen a story, what a company hopes to accomplish by “taking it down,” is beyond me.
This isn’t George Orwell’s 1984 – yet. We just don’t rewrite history on the fly. It’s impossible to put that genie back in the bottle.
When an article is “taken down,” inevitably I get emails asking what happened to such and such a story, or from people reporting broken links in the newsletter, or that the item they posted to their social media page is broken. They never think it’s a problem with the company submitting the story. We’re the ones who look foolish.
I know mistakes can happen. A name could be misspelled, the web address wasn’t listed in the release, the price or phone number was wrong, a photo was excluded, there was a typo or any of dozens of other legitimate reasons to change a press release after it was sent.
Of course, we’re going continue to make those common sense types of changes. And, if it’s a big enough change that the meaning of the story is impacted, we’ll note that at the top of the article.
But, we’re no longer removing stories in their entirety when the articles were submitted by the companies themselves.
Political posturing within an organization isn’t our problem, nor is dealing with corporate dysfunction. A press release is just that – a company is releasing information to the public by way of the media. So, in 2016, when information travels at the speed of light, companies better be darned well certain the story they submit to the press is the one they want to tell.
The same holds true of organizations that break stories on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, but don’t send press releases.
I was told by a dealer group last year to take down a story we picked up on their Facebook page because they “weren’t ready to release it to the industry.” They must think that industry professionals don’t see consumer posts on social media – or that industry people don’t like their Facebook page and get notifications about the post as soon as it’s shared.
Once the story is in the “public domain,” it’s fair game.
Companies that don’t like to play by this rule have options to send their news releases to other publications with smaller audiences, but bigger staff to respond to the requests.
However, although they are way too timid to say so publicly, I suspect the editors at RV Business, RV Pro, RV News, Woodalls Campground Management and Campground E-News are fed up as well with the frequency in which this problem is occurring.
RV Daily Report remains committed to posting all the news we can find in a day, whether it’s submitted as a press release, published elsewhere as a news story, or written by our staff. But, once it’s published in a newsletter, it will remain published. Period.