Journalists' Right vs. PRs' Might

In the past few days there has been quite an uproar from the media due to the McCain campaign’s continued sheltering of Vice Presidential Candidate Sarah Palin. On Tuesday and Wednesday she met with world leaders from the United Nations for the first time, and her campaign attempted to only allow photographers into the meetings. The journalists involved refused to take pictures if there was not an editorial presence there. They compromised at allowing the editorial presence, but only for mere moments.

Is it OK for Governor Palin’s public relations representative to say no to the press? The campaign has allowed for almost no questions from the media. Is that their right? As public relation’s people, how do we balance the need to be in control of certain things while still being ethical? And couldn’t this type of “hiding” cause a backlash from the media, who we need to have good relations with? It may have already caused ripples with some news outlets, but perhaps the campaign decided it was worth it.

Thursday, Governor Palin opened up questions to four reporters, so I thought maybe they decided to let her show a bit of herself. Then I realized that she only answered questions of her choosing. Is this all an ingenious strategy or do you think that the public will eventually get tired of it? I don’t mean to be picking at Governor Palin, I think many in the field of public relations use this strategy, but does that make it right?

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9 Responses to Journalists' Right vs. PRs' Might

  1. drgilpin says:

    Please select a category label so I know which team this is from! (Don’t just reply in comments or add a note to the entry.)

  2. agilliam says:

    I selected “The Agency” under categories and when I look at it, it says “In the Agency” right under my title. Is that not correct?

  3. drgilpin says:

    It does now! I didn’t see it earlier. In any case, this is a good example of a post, with lots of well conceived links and definitely a provocative question.

  4. bkranz says:

    I’m a member of The Agency but I think this post is a great question to ask about PR. I understand that public officials have to power to only allow questions of their choosing to be asked, but what is the real purpose of doing so? In my opinion, only allowing certain questions to be asked implies that there is something being hidden. If Governor Palin wants the United States as well as the world to get to know her as more than the Governor of Alaska, isn’t it important to be able to ask her any questions any journalist might have? While it’s understandable that some journalists ask questions that may not be relevant to the election and her campaign, but how are we supposed to get to know her as a candidate for a very important position in our government without being able to ask? I don’t believe in the choosing of questions, I believe if he or she does not want to answer a question, a reply of “no comment” is better than not allowing it at all.

  5. ccharvey says:

    I think that these types of actions are what give the field of Public Relations a bad name. Picking and choosing what questions you want to answer by screening them in advance is too preventative. Part of being in public relations in knowing how to deal with unfavorable situations when they occur and cannot be stopped, or in this case, should not be stopped. I think that Palin should have at least allowed more media in, whether or not she answered questions. By not allowing this, it only makes me think she has too many more things to hide both about her campaign and personal life.

  6. mara2009 says:

    I disagree with the McCain/Palin public relations strategy regarding Palin’s interaction with the media. Good PR is being able to bridge to the positive when dealing with negative situations. In Palin’s case, I think she should admit that she has no foreign policy experience and then talk about her accomplishments or her ability to learn. By keeping the media away, she sends the message that she has something to hide and that she is incapable of handling the media scrutiny. I agree too that this is a case of bad PR.

  7. letsgoblogging says:

    This is a perfect example of bad PR practice. Dodging the media usually takes place when there is something to hide and frequently takes place in politics. I think that when people in the spotlight are so controlling of the media, it definitely relays a bad image. In these uncertain times, it is especially easy for politicians to ignore probbing questions. An effective PR move would be to have Sarah Palin answer the questions that are being asked of her that way it does not appear like she is trying to hide something.

  8. mekelly1 says:

    I definitely think that her strategy will not benefit the Palin/McCain campaign in the long run. It looks like they are hiding something by only allowing a few reporters and answering certain questions. This strategy will leave reporters looking and wanting for more so they will probably go digging for dirt, and if it is the case that they are hiding something and journalists find out the backlash is only going to be that much bigger. I think effective PR is being honest and open with your audience, there is a way to spin things that are negative in Palin’s case, such as lack of experience, so that she still comes off positively. I don’t think she has any right to turn away media when she is running for vice president of our country. Especially when most voters know very little about her. She needs to gain voters trust, and shunning the media is not the way to do it.

  9. kakeane says:

    This is one of the more prominent reasons that PR professionals are often looked at with disrespect. I can’t believe that a PR professional would allow the McCain campaign to hide Sarah Palin, and keep the few interviews she does very limited. The president has to stand up to bold questions, and a person with the potential to hold that office should also be put up to similar questioning. A PR practitioner does NOT hide bad news, but releases it and puts out information on all the corrective action being taken. The McCain campaign is treating her like she is a natural disaster.

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