Amith Prabhu: The exclusivity of exclusives

02 Jun,2014

By Amith Prabhu


One reason PR professionals are less respected is because of the abuse of the word ‘Exclusive’. How many of us have used this word incorrectly over the last decade? How can we change this trend by trying to do some things better?


For the uninitiated, the term ‘Exclusive’ is used to denote something that is restricted to the person, group or area concerned. We have cleverly over the years manipulated the term to suit our greed for more media output or as commonly referred to as ‘coverage’. Can we coin a better term to kill the ambiguity this has brought about?


Exclusive typically meant there was a transparent agreement that only the individual or group was exposed to a spokesperson during the time frame of an announcement. And the others would get exposed to it once the news was public from the outlet that had exclusive access. However, this changed as some media outlets which were not the leaders in their segment began to approach PR firms or the in-house corporate communications for exclusive access after the special treatment was offered to the media outlet of choice.


This has led to an unpleasant situation where more than one media house and sometimes running into dozens get exclusive access to a spokesperson which they position as ‘Exclusive.’ The better term to use would be ‘Shared Exclusive’ or ‘One-on-One’.


The question that can be debated is – if exclusives are a good idea? I would think they are not, from a long term. The only person who benefits is the journalist and his or her media outlet. If an organization chooses to rotate the exclusive arrangement with multiple media outlets they lose out in the mid-term as a media house that got an exclusive in June for a less important story in June would be left out for a bigger and better story in July.


Exclusives work best when the organization ensures it is not shared and strikes a deal to get substantial coverage or space. But this alienates other media houses and journalists, often leading to a broken bridge that takes time to build. While I’m not writing this column to suggest if exclusives are good or bad I’m definitely rooting for the use of the correct term to avoid ultimately making a fool of the end consumer – who is the reader or viewer.


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