PR has always been a tough industry. At the end of the day, PR firms are in the business of selling stories in a world filled with stories.

But PR firms aren't without tools that can help their clients stand out. One: free product.

Thanks in large part to the rise of the internet, the 'review' is now ubiquitous. From cars to clothes, software to scuba gear, one of the best ways to get journalists, bloggers and other 'influencers' to write about a client's new product is to give that product to them gratis when it's brand new, or -- even better -- before it's available to the public.

That shouldn't come as a surprise. After all, who wouldn't want the privilege of trying the latest and greatest for free, oftentimes before you can buy it in stores?

In some industries, letting influential publishers and individuals review products before they make their public debut is the norm. That's certainly the case in the highly-competitive, and highly-lucrative, video game industry.

This industry, like so many others, has an interesting dynamic at work. PR firms, who are tasked with boosting the media profiles of their clients' soon-to-be-released products, have an awkward marriage of sorts with influencers, who can maintain and increase their influence by giving the public sneak peeks of those new products.

Obviously, a potential conflict exists here: the PR firms need good press, but the influencers only need the ability to review new product. So there's an unspoken rule that's not always enforced, or enforced the same way: you have to be careful what you say in your reviews. A little criticism might be okay, but go too far and you could be blackballed.

One PR firm, however, The Redner Group, took this unspoken rule and spoke it in the most public way possible: Twitter. In a tweet responding to harsh reviews of Duke Nukem Forever, the firm put reviewers on notice:

#AlwaysBetOnDuke too many went too far with their reviews...we r reviewing who gets games next time and who doesn't based on today's venom

This tweet was, obviously, a huge mistake. According to Ars Technica, 2K Games, the maker of Duke Nukem Forever, has dropped The Redner Group.

That should send a strong message to PR firms: unspoken rules are best left unspoken.

Obviously, there are still reviewers out there who will 'play by the rules,' and there are plenty of individuals who would welcome the opportunity to play by the rules to be a part of the PR industry's 'inner circle.'

But even so, PR firms shouldn't delude themselves into believing that they have enough leverage to aggressively 'blackmail' those in the mediasphere whom they court. In many cases, it's the other side that has the power today.

After all, nothing is better for pageviews than a story revealing how some foolish PR firm tried to tell you what to do. PR firms shouldn't forget that.

Patricio Robles

Published 16 June, 2011 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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Comments (3)

Matthew Curry

Matthew Curry, Head of Ecommerce at Lovehoney

This is an odd case, and I don't think it's necessarily the best example of "PR companies need to understand the internet, man" out there.

The issue with Duke Nukem Forever, was that there are a lot of reviews that are pure bile & venom. Not even actual reviews but complete diatribes. To be blunt, any game PR company "should" review who gets review copies if the output is a "review" that doesn't help the reader make a decision to buy or not.

It's a real shame that Jim has been treated so badly, for essentially getting too close to a product that he was promoting.

about 7 years ago


Nick Stamoulis

The biggest issue is that the PR firm called the reviewer out for his negative comments. You can't control what people are going to say about your product, and sometimes it will be negative. Going on the offensive like that makes the PR firm look very petty and unprofessional.

about 7 years ago



Wow! So any reviewers of a product from those who are simply stating their opinion from this firm are worthless? I guess I'll wait until I see reviews from buyers of a product before I buy anything...

Sad that a PR firm can't take a little negative review from a single reviewer.

IF they had a pool of reviewers, they'd have a balanced view of reviews with a bell curve, which is expected with any product & should be done by reviewers with no allegiance to any one product line.

As with many other "pre-market reviews", If I were a product developer, I'd SURE want to know if a particular product was not wanted BEFORE I put it into mass production!

It seems this PR firm is the place with a PR problem.

almost 7 years ago

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