A story from Harvard’s Nieman Journalism Lab was flagged by many PR professionals yesterday. The story outlined how the New Zealand Seafood Industry Council countered bad press – namely a negative story in the NY Times – which pointed to, “ominous signs of overfishing.”

When people searched for related keywords, they found Google ads saying the Times had “apologized” for the story, which wasn’t technically true. The Times apologized for using the trade association’s photograph without permission. Either way, purchasing Google ads to counter bad press is not a new strategy.

However, the trade group did employee some other nuanced tactics to combine with the Google buy. For example, the Times linked to a page on the group’s site in their story, which had a straight-forward description of the fish, the hoki. The group turned that page in to a rebuttal of the Times story.

In addition, the group purchased ads on media websites, including our own TVNewser. “It was virtually a guarantee that they and all their competitors were going to see it,” Jim McCarthy of CounterPoint Strategies, the man behind the campaign, told Niemen Lab. Throwing away where one may stand on either side of the debate, the counter offensive was “a novel strategy that feels more effectual than a letter to the editor,” wrote Niemen Lab’s Zachary M. Seward. McCarthy still has some work to do. Two of the top six Google search results for “hoki” turn up negative stories, one of which is the aforementioned Times story.