DIARY: Pradex spells end of PR as we know it

Hold on to your hats, readers, for we could all be out of jobs before too long.

A service is set to launch that ostensibly threatens the livelihoods of both PROs and journalists.

We have been shown an invite to a Press Association lunch on 22 January for the launch of the Pradex (Press Release Authentication and Distribution Executive) Register, a service backed by the Institute of Business Ideas and Solutions (IBIS).

A letter accompanying the invite - which uses seemingly endorsing quotes from journalists including BBC business editor Jeff Randall - claims Pradex can 'turn your press release into an authoritative news release and send it to the world's press'.

It explains that Pradex will 'provide jouralists (sic) with a quality checked source of articles and comments from organisations that are industry spokesmen at the forefront of their sector'.

On its website, Pradex claims to 'be a fifth of the cost of a PR agency and five times more effective'. Could this be the beginning of the end of the PR sector?

Panic not, however, because IBIS chairman Grahame White tells us the service is 'not out to batter PR agencies' and can work happily in tandem with the IBIS member companies' PR firms.

That's one cause for relief, then. But the invite adds - intriguingly - that companies on the 'Pradex register ... receive certain privileges from our publishing partners, including guaranteed coverage in the most prestigious publications in their sector'.

Guaranteed coverage? Surely not.

When we rang round the titles hinted at on the release (for example, what is mysteriously and frustratingly called 'the market-leading entrepreneur and SME magazine' - no title given), journalists were shocked, with one saying 'maybe they take out inserts - ask our ads department'.

Another editor confessed to being aware of Pradex but - responding to Pradex's claim of 'guaranteed coverage' - was appalled, saying: 'If we agreed to this, it would shatter our credibility.'

When we put it to White that the claim of guaranteeing coverage implied some degree of editorial judgement, he acknowledged that it was an 'awkward phrase', adding that, in fact, the 'coverage' is paid for by IBIS.

Journalists, you can rest easy in your slumbers.

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