Publicists Pump Up Value of Buzz; Don’t Believe the Hype

Last week, as Vancouver residents rioted in the wake of the Canucks’ loss in the Stanley Cup finals, a man and woman kissed on the pavement, flanked by riot cops, as a photojournalist snapped their picture. The photo appeared on websites and in newspapers around the world, bringing sudden publicity to the kissing couple.

The surprisingly controversial question: How much was the publicity worth?

For decades, many publicists have translated clients’ news coverage into dollar figures, with a simple rule of thumb: A newspaper article is worth as much as a newspaper ad of the same size. Similarly, 30 seconds of television news coverage is seen as comparable to a 30-second ad. Some public-relations specialists, reasoning that news coverage carries greater weight with consumers than paid advertising, put a news article’s value at three times an equivalent-size ad.

But other public-relations professionals and academics have railed against making these calculations. Publicity, they say, has different goals than advertising and shouldn’t be measured in the same way.

Read the entire article at The Wall Street Journal.