Monday, 9 August 2010

Guest Post: David Clare - Is PR becoming more like journalism?

I recently attended an event attempting to answer the question, ‘is PR becoming more like journalism’.

The event was debated between 4 journalists and 1 PR pro, yet it was the audience with the more radical ideas. However, the overall view was that journalism is losing its foothold in the news arena; and change is needed.

What seems to be happening, is that people, the consumers of media, information and news, are going elsewhere for their needs. While they may go to one source for ‘some’ information, ‘some’ is all they go for.

This is because people are going to multiple sources, no just one source, like in ‘the old days’ when people read their staple newspaper. Not anymore, now people read the paper on their iPhone app, listen to their subscribed podcast, read blogs and visit multiple news sites, not forgetting all the news they consume through Twitter and Facebook.

This is the issue for journalists, and in some ways for PRs too. If people are consuming media from a huge variety of sources, in such small portions. To keep your readers it is increasingly difficult. No longer can a traditional news source break the news, that is what Twitter is for. No longer can they write exclusive features that stay exclusive, blogs will rework the content as soon as it is posted. Still, it is the exclusives and features that journalists now rely on to differentiate themselves from the rest.

So what does this have to do with PR becoming like journalism?

PR traditionally provides a supporting role for journalists. PRs would complete two tasks for them, they could be used by journalists to check the facts. A journalist would write a story that features an organisation, and in the spirit of quality journalism they could go to the PR and make sure they are reporting the truth, and could even get some quotes.

The other function of a PR, was to provide journalists with press releases. This comes in handy for journalists with slow news days, and particularly useful if a journalist just wants an easy day.

So why is this not happening anymore? Well it is, of course. It does still happen because news papers still reach thousands of people, as does the online content. What is happening is social media.

Social media, such as blogs, Twitter and YouTube, have been instrumental in the change of ways people consume news. People read blogs, watch YouTube channels and amateur footage, while Twitter constantly breaks the news - because it can. Twitter has over 100 million users, all able to write a story, add a geo-tag and an image all within seconds of an event. News sites may take 15 minutes to report a breaking story - and that is if they are very much ‘on the ball’.

PR is becoming more like journalism in the social media arena. People know what they want to read, and if they want to learn about a company they will read the company blog, follow the Twitter feed and ‘like’ them on Facebook.

This gives PRs a great opportunity. PRs have the chance to write the stories themselves. If people are going straight to the horses mouth, then PRs become the journalists. They write the stories, and if they write well enough - and not just selling - then people will come back.

This is both a great opportunity for PRs, and also dangerous. It leaves PRs open to the power of saying whatever they want, with far too much bias. However, so long as PRs control themselves, keep to the facts and write in an engaging way - like good PRs do - then this is a fantastic time for PR.

So is PR becoming more like journalism? Yes, in some ways. Is it a good thing? Not always, but it is exciting, and makes the industry more interesting - who wants to write press releases all the time anyway? Is this bad for journalists? No, they still have an audience, and with the likes of the iPad, they are just changing ways to view the content, but not changing completely.

By David Clare

From Lincoln to London...

The next guest blog comes from David Clare - a University of Lincoln graduate - David has now moved to London to pursue his career in PR.

Follow him on Twitter: @davidjmclare

Check out his blog at:

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Social networking – business, pleasure or both?!

Social networking has exploded onto the scene in recent years and I believe its arrival has changed the way in which people communicate forever. I was born straight into the technological era and had my first mobile phone at the age of 8 – although I had no idea what to do with it and can’t remember using it....

Mobile phones with their ability to text, access the internet and emails have made social networking a way of life. I think nothing of messaging a friend on Facebook and if I don’t receive an email notifying me that someone has commented on my status or written on my wall all day I’m slightly offended.

Luckily I am of the generation that I can take full advantage of these technological advancements. Facebook has always been there, Twitter and LinkedIn, all of these sites have me as a member and I use each of them actively for what I deem to be their role.

It wasn’t until I took my first step into the grown up working world I realised that it might not be a good idea to add everyone I know onto Facebook. Would my new boss really want to see what I was doing outside of work? I have to admit, I’m not much of a rebel and only tend to go out once or twice a week but is it appropriate for them to know who my friends are, where I am and what I’m planning on doing?

There are many dangers associated with having colleagues and bosses on Facebook: There have been a number of stories in the news about employees being taken to court because of writing derogatory status’s about their work and in some cases their fellow employees. There are unwritten ‘rules’ regarding using peoples pictures for business reasons – they are a minefield and depend completely on the person in question. There also seems to be no set regulations on using information that they might publish. For example if you are friends with a colleague who is under performing and you see their status updates about relationship problems should you alter the way you deal with the situation?

With one fifth of employees spending more than 45 hours a week at work their choice of who they spend their time with is limited. The likelihood is that they see their workmates more often than their friends.

This in fact begs the question: Are the lines between individuals work lives and private lives becoming blurred? And do they now overlap?

The emergence of seemed to fill this niche. When asked what it is I reply: ‘It’s just like Facebook but for my work people’. A very technical explanation but accurate.

Working in PR I know that building relationships is the basis of my career. LinkedIn provides me with a platform to do this, however it keeps it professional as there is very little personal information about me there apart from my previous work, one profile picture and status updates are more likely to be interesting links rather than how I am feeling.

Let’s call it clear cut: Facebook for friends and LinkedIn for business colleagues. What happens if your boss requests your friendship on Facebook to tag you in pictures of the Christmas party or invites you to join the company group. You can’t exactly reject. Or can you? It all depends on the type of business that you work for, each individual has to decide how much information they allow to be online and who they want to access it.

In conclusion social networking can be used for both professional and personal reasons. However there are different sites for different applications and care should be taken to make sure that the two don’t overlap.... not too much anyway.

Do you use social networking differently? Are you friend with all your colleagues on Facebook? How do you decide? Would love to hear what other people do so feel free to comment.