The Rhythm Method and Exclusives?

March 16, 2012

Two things you should be very careful with. But since this is a family-friendly PR blog I’ll focus on item #2 – Exclusives. For something so black & white, there sure seems to be a lot of gray around this topic. I’m not certain if the gray exists because PR peeps don’t get it or because they don’t want to get it.  For those of you just getting started in PR and those of you working at big agencies servicing Microsoft, an exclusive is a piece of news shared with one news outlet and typically one reporter before the news is announced publicly. In exchange for providing the exclusive, the reporter agrees to cover the story and most often the news is given prominent placement (front of site, front page, cover story, etc.).  One story, one outlet. Seems pretty simple, right? Still confused? Let’s look at the definition of exclusive from our friends at Merriam-Webster: belonging only to one person or group.   

It may seem like a silly subject and one that should be met with a simple duh, but I’m still surprised by the amount of chatter this topic gets when planning a release strategy. Personally – I am not a fan of exclusives, most of the time. The risk (pissing off every reporter who didn’t get the exclusive) vs. the reward (the one big glowing story) doesn’t always make sense. Notice I said most of the time – leaving myself a little wiggle room. There are exceptions, especially when dealing with the likes of TechCrunch, WSJ, NYT. But that is a an entirely different topic. Rather than focus on whether to give or not to give, let’s stay on the topic of if you’re going to give. The beauty about exclusives is simplicity – you give the story to one person, period.  That’s it.

So why, you ask, does something so simple become so complex and so difficult to grasp for so many? I’ve heard and overheard, most recently at a PRSA event, discussions about multi-outlet exclusives (oxymoron anyone?) local exclusives, and exclusives tied to multiple embargo times (huh?). The best way I’ve found to bring clarity to the confused is with this question: If your boyfriend or husband slept with someone else would you consider that cheating? Duh. So you’re exclusive – right? Yep.  Than why the confusion about exclusivity when it comes to granting it to reporters? Does the hubby get to make exceptions? Never has this question backfired on me and even if it did, it would make for a pretty interesting conversation. The point is there is no gray in this black & white topic. Anything less than an exclusive-exclusive isn’t an exclusive. It’s like being half-pregnant; doesn’t happen. Which conveniently brings us full-circle, back to the subject line.


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