PR and the media: the best of times, the worst of times?

PR and the media: the best of times, the worst of times?

PR Academy tutor Kate Lomax went along to the PR Week, “PR and the Media” conference last week. The event  - which set out to inform "PR pros how to optimise coverage and develop mutually beneficial media relations" – was chaired by her ex-boss Christian Cull who is Communication Director at TUI UK.  Kate kindly put pen to paper afterwards to share the key themes from the day....

"As the coffee flowed, the day kicked off with a debate on journalism in the new age. If us PRs think we have got it tough, try it on the other side of the fence. Here, we heard about the changing nature of media and the increasing demands on journalists in the social media world. Jason Mills from ITV highlighted how social media is no longer a nice to have but an essential part of engaging with its audience. However, despite the significant changes brought about from the information age he stated that the old, traditional principles of journalism still remain the same i.e. a story has to be newsworthy and relevant.

"As part of this discussion Kat Brown, an online journalist, reminded us of the importance of twitter as a tool to engage journalists and she suggested this channel was much more effective than traditional email. CISION also backed this up citing its own research in this field, via its social journalism study, which can be found here 

"This session closed with a heated debate on the impact of social media on journalism with questions from the floor around its damaging ability to release fake stories and the need for journalists to make sure they monitor and police this. In conclusion I felt that Brown summarised the debate well by saying: "Twitter is now the place where news breaks."

"The next session was held on the changing face of broadcast reporting. Here some clear messages to PRs were that we aren’t always getting things right and, in particular, tailoring and targeting of news stories still doesn’t always happen in reality. Some top tips included looking for spokespeople within organisations from more diverse backgrounds - be it sex, ethnicity or age. There was agreement that outlets are looking to move away from the middle aged, white male spokesperson that has historically been the norm. There was also agreement that, although video news releases do provide some useful footage, broadcasters would prefer to go and report stories in their own way perhaps suggesting that PR budgets would be better off spent elsewhere.

"After this discussion the highly anticipated keynote speech followed by Carla Buzasi who is Editor-in-Chief at the Huffington Post. I am ashamed to admit that the first time I heard of this influential outlet was only a few weeks ago. The UK site, which launched in the summer is fast become THE creditable source for both news and blogs.  In an inspirational speech (which I would imagine left many of us delegates feeling like underachievers!) she outlined tips for dealing with bloggers. Reminding us to treat them as we would journalist but, at the same time, making sure that we are getting the necessary returns from the relationship in terms of coverage.

"She also advised that, as best practice, blogs should be between 500 and 800 words (note to self!), casual in style and ensure that the writer's personality comes through. She also highlighted Huffington Post’s commitment to high-brow as well as low-brow news. The front page is always going to be credible in terms of current affairs but that does not suppress the appetite for the low-brow, AKA I'm a celebrity...type stories that we all as readers enjoy. It’s about giving the reader a balance, it can't all the doom and gloom all the time.

"Following a yummy vegetable lasagne for lunch we were onto the latter part of the day and the discussion moved to online journalism. Rich Sutcliffe from Brand Republic informed us that just because they are an online outlet does not mean they publish stories immediately. Instead, they would prefer to hold onto a story to maximise traffic to the site and make best use of the opportunity. Peter Hoskin from Spectator highlighted the growing area of data journalism and predicted this to continue to grow in size.    

"Finally, it was down to Simon Craddock from Motorola to wrap up the day in the last session. His discussion soon had our attention citing the Charles Dickens quote: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times" highlighting what we were all feeling in the room in terms of lack of budget and resource. However he also reminded us of the positive side of the current economic outlook, most notably more challenges and increased complexities. I am not sure I agreed with all his views on social media but he gave an honest account on how to manage internal expectations and reminded us that PRs don't always have the ability to control the media agenda. Something we shouldn’t beat ourselves up about.

"After this it was down the pub to write up my blog over a glass of wine! Unfortunately I have not hit Carla's 800 word limit for this blog, but hopefully it demonstrates a step in the right direction towards embracing the digital age!"

It definitely does - thanks Kate!, Ann