Digital media and the public relations pro/journalist relationship

Digital media and the public relations pro/journalist relationship

“Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: everything else is public relations.” ~George Orwell

Ah, the seemingly age-old tension filled, mutually distrustful, relationship between journalists and public relations (PR) pros – it’s been said that journalists speak the truth and PR pros dazzle and confuse with spin. Where does this relationship stand in today’s digital world?

Throughout this digital literacy series I’ve examined some of the ways digital media is forever changing traditional media and altering the journalist’s job description. Well, an argument can be made that digital media is having a similar impact on the PR pro’s job description. And this in turn is transforming public relations/journalist dynamics.


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Wanted: digital public relations pro

Newscrafting and Trendsetting, Marian Salzman, CEO of Euro RSCG Worldwide PR,

Credit: Havas.com

Earlier this year I reviewed David Meerman Scott’s Newsjacking, in which he discussed the way social media is enabling PR pros to inject their brands into breaking news stories. Scott describes these new public relations trailblazers as observant and quick thinking. In her recently published white paper, Newscrafting and Trendspotting, Marian Salzman, CEO of Euro RSCG Worldwide PR, adds five more adjectives to the list of desired attributes for today’s PR pros:

  • Creative
  • Original
  • Daring
  • Social media master
  • Current news and trends aficionado

Salzman makes the case that social media has made it necessary for journalists and PR pros to look for and produce headlines and angles that generate and hold attention in a world where breaking news stories happen in the time it takes to post a photo to Twitter. Those who don’t rise to this challenge should be looking for new jobs:

Journalists who don’t know how to engage people’s interest should seriously consider becoming academics, if they can find a college willing to employ them. Public relations professionals who just crank out press releases are in the wrong line of work; they should work in the corporate archives.

“Don’t be in the news – be the news”

Whether you call it newsjacking or newscrafting, digital age PR pros need to think beyond pitching. Journalists monitor social media feeds for breaking news and PR pros need to do the same. The difference is, journalists are looking for stories to report on in an unbiased, detached fashion, while PR pros should be looking for ways to make their clients a part of the news.

Salazar suggests they do this through trendspotting: a mixture of releasing routine but compelling news, actively creating news opportunities and riding the coattails of breaking news stories. This requires a great deal of close observation and monitoring of new media: watching for breaking news, paying attention to what people are saying about it and watching for and trying to get in front of trends.

But what does this mean for journalists? They too are looking to everyday people on social media for story ideas and trends. With PR pros taking this same information and crafting it to suit their brands, how do journalists report without bias on content that may be inherently biased? This is by no means a new question, but the digital age lends it a new relevance.

New media: everything, plus the kitchen sink

Digital media gives people endless choices for where to go to consume information. And as I discussed in last week’s post, this information can be whatever you want it to be: from politics, to world news and celebrity gossip. On this topic, Salazar makes a very compelling point: thanks to digital media, people can find everything in one place – they stay current on local and world news, read movie reviews, check out pictures of celebrity babies, view cat videos and catch up with their friends, simultaneously and in real time.

Summed up: she says social media fulfills people’s need for information, entertainment and interaction. And it’s this all for one smorgasbord that’s creating such a stir and leaving PR pros and journalists evolving to catch up.

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