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Journalists and PR

Jeremy Hillman Jeremy Hillman | 11:28 UK time, Wednesday, 27 February 2008

I've just had an interesting day at a one day conference for PR and the media. There was quite a buzz about the book Flat Earth News by Nick Davies which looks at the relationship between journalists and the public relations world and draws some not so positive conclusions.

One of my fellow panellists duly quoted the line “news is what they don't want you print, everything else is PR” (I'm paraphrasing but please do let me know the full quote if you know it). Another mentioned the number of journalists who now move over to the 'dark side'.

But it was something else that struck me more than this uneasy relationship. As I explained how we're restructuring BBC News to meet the challenges of an online, non-linear world I suddenly realised what a challenging and difficult job PR can be these days and how much we have in common.

If you're in PR you now have the opportunity to take your message direct to the public in a hundred new ways, at least if you understand the technology well enough. Blogs, vodcasts, podcasts, Twitter streams and social networking are all there to exploit and there's more every day. And you've got to be brave enough to let your content be shared and messed around with. With all this happening, we 'traditional media' are still too important to ignore, though, as Nick Davies points out in his book, we're often too busy to take the call or read the e-mail.

It seems to me effective PR isn't about flogging a ropey product launch. It comes from a deep understanding and mastery of the issues around the industry and business you represent and the ability to express those powerfully and honestly. And that, like good journalism, takes time.


Good journalism is honest. Good pr is sincere. Neither of those require any particular outlet or technology.

Like many other industries, there are those giving the PR industry a bad name by "flogging a ropey product launch", or even simply approaching journalists the wrong way.

Thankfully, both hacks and flacks and trying to bridge the gap and make the relationship between the two sides more effective and rewarding - as can be seen by following the many blogs, Twitter conversations and other social networks.

Your post, Jeremy, is another step towards this.

I have continued to work as a journalist and talked proudly about it so that some friends that I have had wondered if I could take up another job that offers a better remuneration.
I sure do know that PR and journalism share so much in common but there is always a line that divids them so that it is not the same.
As a journalist working in Nigeria and I have continued to seek to gain international status as a reporter and special correspondent.May be international fellowship,scholarship and international workshops could link mein a meaningful network.

  • 4.
  • At 06:39 AM on 28 Feb 2008,
  • Robert wrote:

There is a serious problem these days with local newspapers publishing information from press releases and not bothering to double check any facts.

Marketing people can have a vested interest in exaggerating certain statistics.

In the case of one particular annual event over the years, this has led to the local newspaper reporting attendance figures that are exaggerated by 500%-700%.

When you consider that people travel to come to this and buy tickets, it is effectively fraud.

Furthermore, in the future, historians may use newspapers as source material.

Thanks for the post Jeremy. As someone who has crossed over to the dark side and back again several times, it is refreshing to see a balanced viewpoint.

  • 6.
  • At 11:54 AM on 28 Feb 2008,
  • Almir Mumovic wrote:

Is the BBC now expanding into the bookselling business?, first we have you using Newsnight to highlight that Cambell has yet another fictional book on sale, then we have you using the editors blog twice to highlight that Nick Davies (Guardian journalist) has a book out.

  • 7.
  • At 01:16 PM on 28 Feb 2008,
  • Rebecca wrote:

Speaking as a financial journalist, my biggest concern is how most of the news is PR - every negative story is an opportunity for another company to comment and come out whiter than white.

I don't think I'll ever cross over to the darkside, but I grow more disillusioned with journalism and the media every day.

Excellent post Jeremy, beautifully summing up the main issues facing the PR and journalism professions in the brave new world of UGC and digital media.

My personal thoughts about this fascinating subject are here:

I agree with Nick , but you cant ignore technology.

  • 11.
  • At 05:52 PM on 29 Feb 2008,
  • Jacquie wrote:

In my experience, good journalists and good pr people work together to produce well-balanced new stories. There is such a demand now for tight deadlines that both have to increasingly rely on each other to get the facts and the story turned around quickly enough to satisfy demand.

Reproducing press releases verbatim can sometimes prove that the pr has got it right - and if it ain't broke........

  • 12.
  • At 10:19 AM on 03 Mar 2008,
  • Pankaj Khanna wrote:

'News is something, someone doesn't want printed. Everything else is advertising'

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