Just before the long weekend, Vanity Fair‘s Tina Nguyen wrote about Breitbart News‘s plummeting traffic.
The puzzling part of the story comes when the writer asks the right-wing site for comment.
The publicist, Chad Wilkinson, self-described “PR Man,” couldn’t get it together to figure out a comment before Memorial Day weekend. Which you’d think he and the website would want him to do at a dramatic moment like this.
He had choices. He could ignore Nguyen completely, which publicists tend to do when they don’t like the questions.
Or, he could respond like this. Which also seems like a bad call in this instance.
“When I reached out to Breitbart for comment on Wednesday evening, asking if we could talk the next day, an editor passed along my email to spokesman Chad Wilkinson,” she wrote in her piece. ‘There is no way I can make that deadline,’ he wrote back. ‘I don’t follow the traffic all that much and I am heading out of town. I will see what I can find in the meantime but I don’t anticipate having a hard answer in the next 13 or 14 hours.’ He did not return repeated additional requests for comment.”
Seriously. A reporter gives you 14 hours to respond. That’s greater than half a day and you can’t handle it?
And Breitbart News‘s publicist — whose firm is CapitalHQ, a CRISIS communications firm — doesn’t follow the site’s traffic that much?
“If anything, especially for something as fundamental as traffic, any reputable media can access that within real time,” said Kurt Bardella, former publicist at Breitbart News, who runs his own PR shop, Endeavor Communications. “That’s not an unusual inquiry to get. It doesn’t requite a lot of groundwork by the PR person. If you can’t provide that information in the better part of the day…let’s be honest, if it wasn’t true, they’d be the first to tell anybody.”
Wilkinson’s non-response is clearly something of a red flag.
“It tells me that there’s merit to Tina’s story and they don’t want to disclose what those numbers are,” Bardella said.
How long should a reporter ideally give a publicist?
“It depends on the topic,” he said. “If it’s something that’s going to require actual legwork, that takes a little more time. If it’s basic, fundamental information about your platform — like what’s your traffic? — it shouldn’t take longer than, at best, a few hours. This is a platform that’s well known for going up with stories [quickly] and not caring whether they get a response in a timely order. Thirteen hours is a long time. In my experience, if they [reporters] give you a deadline and there’s a legitimate reason [to wait] most reporters are willing to say that’s fair.”
Reader thought bubble: At least make something up at this point, Wilkinson.
An oil spill in your apartment, a fire, grandma has a head cold, whatever.
Wilkinson is indeed a hard man to track down. I wound up emailing him on LinkedIn and sending an email to his PR website, which offers a black screen with no real information and no phone number. I also called and phoned Nguyen for further comment. There was no response by Mirror press time.
If they respond to my inquiry later in the day within, say, 14 hours, I’ll be sure to bring their remarks to you immediately.
Read the whole Vanity Fair story on Breitbart’s crashing web numbers here.