Mag publishers rally for more focused PR

NEW YORK: The magazine industry needs more and better-targeted PR to counter a recent wave of negative press.

NEW YORK: The magazine industry needs more and better-targeted PR to counter a recent wave of negative press.

This was the rallying cry heard at 'Magazine PR: The Big Bang Theory,' a Magazine Publishers of America (MPA) committee event held last week in New York. Attendees included writers and editors from most major publications, as well as a host of magazine PR professionals.

MPA president Donald D. Kummerfeld said the industry must marshal its PR forces to counteract the negative publicity it has been receiving over the last year.

Kummerfeld claimed people are taking the industry to task for, among other things, violating the privacy of subscribers by releasing personal information to advertisers. Furthermore, he said a perception exists that business issues commonly compromise editorial integrity.

'Clearly, our coverage has been more negative recently,' he said. 'Maybe it's time to pay more attention to image management.'

Kummerfeld noted the magazine industry, unlike most others, has never been involved in any kind of image-building campaign. At a recent meeting, the MPA's board of directors decided to look into increasing the group's visibility in Washington D.C. and elsewhere. Possible PR actions include social events with key D.C. players, as well as a broader campaign designed to focus attention on the industry's positive contributions to education and literacy efforts.

At the same time the MPA was speaking about increasing and refining its PR efforts. However, keynote luncheon speaker Steven Brill cautioned attendees to think about the long-term implications of their PR efforts.

'Everybody wants buzz, but you have to be careful about generating the wrong type of buzz,' he said.

As an example, he cited the publicity received by Vanity Fair following its story about New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani's personal life. 'A story like that gives a short-term thrill, but the long-term effect of adding that dimension to a brand name like Vanity Fair is not good,' he explained.

To that end, Brill recently passed up the opportunity to run a story about a prominent reporter's private life. 'It would create tremendous buzz,' he said. 'But it would be a bad business decision. In the long run, we don't want to be remembered for gossip.'.

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