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


  1. Looking forward to seeing you actually write some blog posts yourself Carly - a blog is only as strong as it's "voice", and that's you.

    David - I think your post is excellent. Convergence in PR and Journalism is not necessarily a bad thing. It takes time though for attitudes to change, and the occasional lack of love between a PR Officer and a journalist will prevent fair and equitable convergence.

  2. Hi David,

    Thanks once again for your comment.

    I wrote the post on social networking just last week incase you forgot - I do believe you commented on it. Fear not I will be writing more...

    I agree with you - Davids post was fantastic - it's brilliant to have partnerships with people within the industry like David - Thanks again Mr Clare :-)

  3. This is definitely true.:) PR is a well-known support for journalism, yet its always better if both parties are always willing to work hand in hand in delivering reliable publicity.:)