In the red corner: the people who give you the news you want, when you want; journalists!
In the blue corner: the people who give journalists the information they need whilst protecting reputations of high profile individuals; PR professionals!
Who will win this fight against fake news?
Well, both actually. They’re both equally as important as the other. Let me explain…
A few days ago I was lucky enough to be part of an open debate with both PR professionals and journalists. I sat and listened in to a panel of people who actually know what they’re doing in the industries (because alas, as a student, I am still a young padawan who probably has no idea what they’re doing) while they discussed the importance of their fields, and what they thought of the other. It was interesting, to say the least…
Of course, everyone started by introducing themselves, talking about their background, their job etc. Lovely. But I went for the debate, because anyone who knows me knows I love a good argument.
It turned out to be less of a debate and more of a Q&A, but it was interesting nonetheless, and made me realise a thing or two about the relationships between PR professionals and journalists.
It became clear that this relationship has improved in recent years when Andy Barr (founder of 10 Yetis Digital PR agency) told us a little about his first job. He told us that he had been asked to call up a journalist from a publication that rhymes with shmirror to pitch a release to him. According to Andy, the journalist asked what his name was, to which a chipper young Andy said “Andy Barr, sir!” and the journalist replied, “well, go fuck yourself Andy Barr”. Charming. But us journalists aren’t all like that, and this kind of relationship has changed in the last decade or so.
It used to be that getting a story out of someone in PR was like squeezing blood out of a stone. And in reverse, PR professionals couldn’t get journalists to take on the stories that they were releasing. But the PR industry has boomed, and journalists and PR professionals are learning to trust each other.
Personally, one particular story resonated with me during the panel’s speeches. Kathie Litchfield, communications manager for Gloucestershire County Council explained the importance of trust in the PR/Journalism relationship.
She laid out a scenario in which she was woken up at 3am one morning by fire services and police calling her to tell her there was a fire on an industrial estate next to a residential area. The fire was huge, and it was heating up some gas canisters that could potentially blow if the fire wasn’t controlled. She needed to get the word out to news outlets to spread awareness to locals and help evacuate the area and keep them informed.
This was a life and death situation. She needed to decide who to call first. Which journalist was going to be her first phone call?
It needed to be someone she could trust. She needed to know which journalist she could trust to get the word out, to not mess her around and get the job done. Kathie had built trust in journalists through working together in the past. She explained that although they didn’t always see eye to eye and perhaps weren’t all that friendly, she knew who she could trust and who she couldn’t.
This is just one example of how important trust is in our world of media. Personally, I feel like during a work placement with Andy Barr at 10 Yetis, I built some friendships and some contacts that I could trust and I hope they could trust me to deliver the content they need. That’s a fantastic feeling.
So the journalism and PR relationship is getting there. Networking with these professionals has not only made me realise the importance of that relationship, but that in the world of media, it’s not all bickering back and forth and holding information from journalists like it used to be. There is trust, there is respect; but above all, there is a passion and a drive to get the right stories out at the right time.