Publicist Request Leads to AOL Drama

TechCrunch’s Alexia Tsotsis wrote a post about a Facebook game tied to Jake Gyllenhaal’s new flick The Source Code. Her story says the game isn’t that great, but goes on to talk about how it’s another example of the interactive marketing that films are doing. (An interview on this subject with Gyllenhaal above.)

Summit Pictures, the company behind the movie, didn’t like the “snarky” tone of the post. So a Summit publicist contacted Moviefone, another AOL site. Moviefone relayed the message to TechCrunch. “Let me know if you’re able to take another look at it and make any edits,” said the emailed request, which Tsotsis reprinted in its entirety.

The EIC of Moviefone, Patricia Chui, defended the email in a post of her own.

Our colleague Pandora Young writes on FishbowlLA: “Making movie studios happy is not part of a journalist’s job.” True.

The headline on Tsotsis’ follow-up post about the email actually prompted yet another post from TechCrunch’s Paul Carr. Ok fine. Our point is this: Publicists need to stop telling reporters how to do their jobs.

A few weeks back, a publicist named Timothy Anderson felt the wrath of TechCrunch when he questioned (in a snarky way) why a reporter wouldn’t cover the story he’d pitched. In the Source Code case, the story was written, there were even video interviews, and still the publicist circled back to ask if it could be written differently.

There could be PR repercussions to that request. For instance, Moviefone might not be as amenable to publicists because of the brouhaha this complaint caused.

In media relations, there are certain things you can’t control and part of the job is managing expectations. You provide info, remain accessible, arrange interviews, and keep in touch to build a relationship with the reporter over the long term. But it’s possible that the resulting story won’t be everything you want it to be. For that kind of guarantee, you write a press release, a post on your corporate blog, a Facebook update, or create some other content that you have complete control over.