This week I answered one rather-cryptic ad from someone looking for a long-term freelance writer. The ad called for somebody with media connections, but I figured that was just to weed out people with no experience.
A guy with a PR company (which I'm sort of tempted to name) called. He said he was from a standard PR company representing 30 or so clients.
Then in so many words the guy tells me they're looking for someone to write stories about their companies and then place them in media, presumably without telling the editor that they are being paid by this PR company.
Me: "I don't understand. I've been pitched by PR people before and then I go to my editor with the story and ask whether or not they think it's a good story*** but then I only get paid on one end of that equation - you know what I mean?"
Him: "Right. This would be a different model."
A credibility-annhilating model! I said I wasn't interested and that was that. Perhaps I'm naive, but I'm surprised this exists. I don't even understand how it's a good business model, because it just sounds complicated with too slim a chance for success.
I immediately emailed a friend who works in PR to ask, "is this a thing?!" She said she'd heard of something similar, but that it sounded shady.
I had one freelancer when I was in Beijing who was constantly pitching extremely boring stories about cars. My predecessor had let her do one. I figured out eventually that her roommate worked in PR for a car company, I figured she was just being lazy with her pitches and/or trying to do her friend a solid. But now I wonder...
My eyes are open!
***I've actually never had a PR person pitch me a story I actually was a good idea. I'm not saying it couldn't happen. It just hasn't. The only person who has successfully pitched me was a school teacher who invited me to accompany her class on a service trip to a mountain village in rural Anhui. It was a good trip.