How Not To Do PR About A Global Social Media Marketing Award

I was reading and skimming through my Google Reader the other day and  was more than pleased to find a blog post from Social Media Today that Ford had Won a PR Week Award for “Best Use Of Social Public Relations PR Ford Social Media Marketing CompetitionMedia”. (View Scott Monty’s Video on How Ford Use Social Media)

The PR Week awards are touted by PR Week as the Oscars of PR, so I was keen to find out more.

The post linked to the original post at Social Media Group, both articles were quite brief. Below is the original post

Ford wins PR Week Award for Best Use of Social Media!

maggiefox, March 13 2010

“We’d like to extend our sincere congratulations to our client Ford Motor Company for this week’s win at the PR Week Awards! This past Thursday in New York (where we were all very dressed up, including Ford Digital Communications Manager Scott Monty in black tie) the team took home a very prestigious and competitive award – Best Use of Social/Digital Media (some of the other nominees included the Queensland Department of Tourism and their “Best Job in the World” campaign).


When we started working with Ford in 2007, their social media activity consisted of a lone (unauthorized) YouTube channel. It has been incredibly gratifying to be a part of such an amazing evolution and to watch our client grow and master these new and emerging tools and ways of communicating, and be recognized by their peers for doing so.

Congratulations! We are so proud!”

I have recently taken an interest in Ford and social media competitions and have written several articles about Ford including “The 7 Secrets to Ford’s Social Media Marketing Success” and its best practice of social media marketing with its Ford Fiesta Competition. So I did a search on Google and found that there was a very little information about the awards.

I was starting to feel some frustration about not being able to obtain more in depth articles or blogs and to find out why Ford had won the award, not just a short PR announcement.

I then proceeded to enter a search into Twitter to see of there were any Tweets with any links to more in depth reports or analysis of the PR Week awards but to no avail, just tweets. Here are a couple of Tweets from the very deserving Scott Monty and Maggie Fox who were obviously very excited about the awards.

PR Week AwardsTwitter Best Use Of Social  Media Ford Social media Marketing Competitions

The next step was to go to the PR Week website and blogs and there I found a page listing the different awards. Below is a a snippet from the page

PR Week Awards Best Use Of Social media Ford Social Media Marketing

I then clicked on the link and found a page with a very brief introduction and they then asked me for $9.95 to read the rest of their award news.

PR Week Awards Best Use Of Social media Ford Social Media Marketing

I don’t know if I am just not skilled at Google search or navigating the PR Week website, but I was just wanting to write an article about the awards and Ford,because it was such an achievement and this was all I could discover.

So it is buried behind a paid wall and I am sorry PR Week but I am not paying $9.95 to read a news article, so you missed out on some free PR on a social media blog. The news will eventually surface on some elses blog or news item and someone else will steal your PR because it will not be behind a paid subscriber fort.

Am I being too sensitive? Shouldn’t this type of information be freely available? What do you think of PR Weeks strategy of a pay wall garden for its news?


  • John Antonios

    Jeff, you’re not being sensitive at all – in fact what you said makes a lot of sense. How do they expect their PR efforts to be viral if the intend to make the vehicles of that grapevine pay for the news? In my opinion, this defies the purpose of PR. As you said, not only did they miss out on an opportunity of spreading the word, but they just yielded negative feedback with respect to their strategy.
    thanks for sharing!

  • John Dyer

    If the award was so genuinely breathtaking, revolutionary or otherwise innovative, why would they require users to pay to hear about it?

    Pretty sure I saw a viral youtube video on Heinekin’s recent guerilla marketing campaign that was all of those above things, and free.

    Hope to read an update, Jeff!


  • Marc Ross

    I agree – I was looking for more info on the award/ceremony and don’t want to drop $10 to PR Week.

  • Lois

    I don’t think that you were being too sensitive at all. In fact, I was exhausted just following your attempts to get the information you were seeking.

    It is ironic, isn’t it, that you have to pay for the information to give a publication with the name PR Week some PR! This is a case of the shoemaker’s kids not having shoes.

  • Lafate Smith

    I think they need to find another way to make money. Charging for this type of content is not the way. How many times will visitors continue to visit their site if they get charged for content. They could actually lose traffic.

  • jamiefavreau

    I think it is not a smart business decision to lead you into something and then make you have to pay to read the rest. If they are going to decide you have to pay for it they should NOT have a teaser in the first place.

    Publications are going to want someone to pay because they need to make money. BUT when you lead someone somewhere with half the story and then don’t let them finish reading the rest. There is a problem.

    Subscriptions have a purpose and they need to be enacted from the beginning. You either have to offer a pay model or NOT. You can not do both. It is bad business. That is like going to a bar with press that says, “Free” and then you get there and find out it is $35.00 to get in. You were told from the start it is free and then they changed their mind mid way through with out telling you.

  • Ryan Pinnick

    It’s quite simple…they obviously value $10 more than great publicity.

    Great article

  • Dean le Pere

    This is a case of wanting to make a quick buck instead of earning it the real and proper way.

  • Daniel Young

    ‘Missed out on some free PR’

    Your post represents a pretty good plug if you ask me.

  • Loretta

    Wow, they totally missed the boat on that one. You’d think a company or site with PR in their name would get it, but I guess not. What’s great is this article will get read more than whatever they’ve got behind their paid news subscriber wall when people are looking for more information on the topic. Hopefully that gives them a little hint as to how to do things better in the future.

  • corey j. tronchin

    What I learned from. Doing events, festivals, and parties. It is quite few to none that paying for quality when it deals with public relations. If you usally have to pay entrance to a event means it is not worth the time.

    I would leave it like this jeff, best way if situation ever presents itself again. Send I email to pr and I am jeff bullas and would like acess to your content for possibility to do a feature. If they no, hey that’s their deal.
    Always ask no matter the price. Price is a tactic some use which the amount represents all the other thing that the prospect could buy with the same amount of money.
    . Just dismiss it.bests

  • Emily Breder

    I agree. I’ve been a web journalist for a while and ‘hitting the wall’ when searching for details on the web is so frustrating, so I feel for you… especially when you’re talking about an award specifically for good use of PR on the web. Ironic. An email to them usually elicits a response of some kind, though.

    Besides, most awards are created for publicity for the sponsor. This article probably made them very happy- nothing gets hits up more than controversy, even a mild one. If you emailed them now, I bet they’d give you some ‘exclusive information’; problem + conflict resolution + audience = conversation. That is the definition of a social media publicity dream.

  • Ian Gertler

    Horrible! This should have been a perfect example to illustrate the power of PR and social media reinforcing each other today. It looks like the transformation has happened: PRWeek is now PRWeak!

    Twitter: @iangertler

  • Avistu

    There are so many layers of ‘Ironic’ in this occurrence. A compendium of ‘non PR wise’ and less than desirable Social Media consequences. This is old news but I am tweeting this fiasco…


  • William Ignatius

    It seems to break the basic rules of social media. Social media isn’t to make money, as much as to build relationships. Those relationships will likely lead to an increase in profit for companies that leverage those relationships appropriately. But to try and make money off a social media award is almost an oxymoron.

  • Peter Adams

    hilarious(ly) wrong

  • xposure

    This is something I definitely see with a lot of companies. Not seeing the bigger picture, and only focusing on a traditional communication methods.

    This just seems so weird (wrong) when its a PR/Social Media award. Ouchhhh!

  • Eric Herberholz

    Tooting your own horn about getting an award my be viewed by some as bragging. Maybe Ford has pride and doesn’t want to pat itself on the back. [insert humor here] Which could do some heavy damage, given the heavy iron, er, steel involved =:-)

  • Thomas Ruschke

    Too right! I too saw Ford’s award but couldn’t find any real concrete information on the award itself. I don’t pay $9.95 for a digital magazine, why would I pay that for ONE ARTICLE. So 1999.