Dan Primack gave his fellow journalists a pretty hard time about their saturation coverage of the Yahoo / Tumblr deal and their simultaneous failure to cover specialty pharma company Activis’ acquisition of Warner-Chilcott today in a Fortune piece.
I think Dan is right on with this point:
Notice anything horribly amiss? Particularly once we consider that Tumblr basically is the latest/greatest means for teens to express themselves, while Warner Chilcott develops products to help people manage serious diseases and prevent unwanted pregnancies.
But as much as I agree, I think the post underestimates the power of public relations and puts at least some of the blame in the wrong place. The post points a finger at journalists and their consumers for being somewhat shallow, but I think a lot of it is actually reasonably business strategy.
What do you think the gap was in the relative PR spend between these two deals?
I bet Yahoo! spent at the very, very least a cool half million on on Mayer’s Tumblr post and that cute .gif and media outreach. Activis? Probably not close to that much.
Not to mention the press release copy:
I did PR for biopharma companies for four years, and these companies expect an Activis / W-C style release and campaign. Anything else is viewed as completely insane. You could argue that’s fine.
Their audience is their stockholders, not the media. They need to write a release that tells investors the deal is fiscally sound.
Yahoo! and Tumblr are most concerned that Tumblr users sees this as a cool, quirky deal reflecting the cool, quirky culture of Tumblr and that they dont disengage with the platform. Because investors would not so much like that.
Maybe some reporters DO look under every rock to try to cover the stories that are most important to society, and maybe Dan’s article is right about the reasons coverage is so unbalanced.
But I think it’s a pretty simple case of using resources to meet business needs. If medical companies see consumer-style PR results as a goal, they should (and sometimes they really should) hire creative agencies and give them leeway to do so. Until then I think we’ll always see the imbalance that Dan points out – no matter how well intentioned journalists may be.