Duke Nukem PR guy would have been better off staying quiet

Duke Nukem PR guy would have been better off staying quiet

Summary: PR guy Jim Redner's Twitter tantrum sank his business with 2K Games last week after he threatened Duke Nukem Forever reviewers. Now he's explaining his position. But should he?

TOPICS: Mobility

Remember the PR agency that found itself out on the street last week after it threatened retribution against game journalists who were too harsh with Duke Nukem Forever? He's spoken out in a guest column in Wired.

Jim Redner owns (and is sole proprietor) of The Redner Group, a PR agency located in Santa Monica, Calif. Up until last week, Redner represented 2K Games, with whom he'd worked previously for another Gearbox Software release - Borderlands.

Last week Redner took to Twitter and threatened unspecified game reviewers who were, in his opinion, taking unfair shots at Duke Nukem Forever, which Redner had been hired to promote. Redner suggested that anyone who had crossed the line with their review wouldn't be receiving product from him in the future.

It was a peculiar tirade. PR people rarely, if ever, are so publicly confrontational. So news of Redner's epic tantrum spread across game news sites like wildfire. 2K summarily fired him the following day and promptly disowned his comments.

At the outset, Redner admits his mistake, calling it "a brain fart of epic proportions that registered on the social media Richter scale." In his rambling, three-page screed, Redner paints himself as a one-man-shop David competing with PR industry Goliaths, overworked and underappreciated. Maybe that explains why he took so personally some of the sharp criticism levied at Duke Nukem Forever. Between his contrition, Redner wavers between hostility and defensiveness.

Ultimately, Redner defends his position, telling readers that he never actually threatened to blacklist any reviewers - that word came up in a Wired story recounting his comments. He attempts to differentiate "blacklisting" from what he calls "a selection process," and in the process, weakens his own argument.

Most of the third page of Redner's piece is a defense of why he doesn't send out more copies of games to reviewers. Redner explains that publishers and PR agencies have a limited number of review copies to work with and aren't obliged to send copies of games to every reviewer who asks. That's perfectly understandable.

It's when Redner explains that he factors in "past coverage" and "personal information" when he decides whether someone gets a game where his argument weakens.

"That’s not blacklisting. It’s a selection process," said Redner. Redner goes on at length to explain his "selection process."

"If I walked up to you today, and you hit me in the face as a form of greeting, do you think that I should I approach you again tomorrow?" he asks rhetorically.

Redner adds that the job of a PR agency is to protect the games they represent, not to "supply games to journalists who are capable of such hatred." He says that reviewers can always buy a copy of a game they want to review. That may be true, but it's beside the point: Redner already concedes that he'll send copies to reviewers he knows will be kind.

Realistically, Redner may quibble over the term "blacklisting," because it's a politically and culturally loaded term. But at the end of the day, the result is exactly the same. Explaining his "selection process" does little more than expose the system as pandering to reviewers who play ball - you scratch my back with a good review, I'll make it easy for you to get product or access next time.

While the vast majority of what Redner says is absolutely no surprise at all to anyone who's worked in the games business for any length of time, his comments give people who don't live this stuff every day a peek behind the curtain.

In the end, I can't help feeling that Redner would have been better off leaving well enough alone and just saying, "I screwed up, and I'm sorry."

Sometimes an apology is better than an explanation.

Topic: Mobility

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  • Funny

    Sole proprietor of the Redner Group? Isn't that an awfully small group? ;-)
  • RE: Duke Nukem PR guy would have been better off staying quiet

    Everyone who works in product PR does the "selection process" thing to an extent. It's our job to get good reviews for products. It's also our job to avoid bad reviews. Sometimes you take a risk hoping for a good review and it goes poorly.

    Every PR person will try to avoid a bad review though, and that means some reviewers will be left off the list.
    • RE: Duke Nukem PR guy would have been better off staying quiet

      @ajs124 Problem is this product is so bad a "good review" isn't possible. He might have been better off just saying "I'd rather not represent this". If 2K Games took umbrage then he might not have been representing them in the future. However his little tirade possibly means he won't be representing anyone.
  • RE: Duke Nukem PR guy would have been better off staying quiet

    Inartfully phrased, but he's just telling it like it is. Can you blame him? As a company, you don't hire a PR shop to get balanced reviews. You hire a PR shop to get good reviews and sell copies of your games. Tech journalists tend to get uppity about these thing (I should know - I am one), as though they deserve free product to review, but why would a PR shop go out of its way to facilitate a journo getting product when it knows has a better-than-not chance of a bad review from that individual? That sort of behavior doesn't seem like it represents the client's interests very well, does it?
    • RE: Duke Nukem PR guy would have been better off staying quiet

      @JonnyDucati "Inartfully phrased" is the story here. Which is why I can't understand why Jim Redner can't just keep quiet.

      - Peter
  • RE: Duke Nukem PR guy would have been better off staying quiet

    While PR may be important, actually making a good game makes the job easier. In this case, the game is crap.
  • The whole process is corrupt

    I think everyone's missing the point. The fact is that any "review" based on financial compensation ("free product" as someone put it) and/or favouritism ("you only get advance copies if you do a good review") is simply bribery, extortion and fraud.

    It's all very well a PR company claiming "it's our job to promote", but the expectation is (and should be) that third-party reviews are objective and impartial, not sponsored advertising. By bribing and extorting these reviewers, PR companies have corrupted the process, turning it into a farce.

    Personally, I think fraudulently promoting something as an ostensibly impartial review should be illegal. Didn't the US recently enact some sort of "astroturfing" law that covers this, or was that only in the EU?

    If it were up to me, every such "review" would be required by law to carry the disclaimer: "Warning: The following review is a commercial advertisement commissioned by the company that makes the product under review, or third-party hired to represent the interests of that company, and as such cannot be trusted as impartial or even accurate".

    Surely anyone who's honest would have no objection to such a disclaimer.