I bumped into someone the other night who described themselves as a ‘media relations director’ for a PR firm. It got me thinking- in my agency’s previous incarnation I employed someone in a similar role, and was generally pretty pleased with the results. However, with the role of PR in relation to the media- and the media itself- changing at a frightening rate, the existence of such a role led me to think about the changes in modern journalism, and their meaning for the PR world.
The death of print journalism in its current form is a fact- the industry is in freefall. This continuous groundswell, augmented by the firestorm of Leveson, has turned the public- by and large- furiously against the journalistic profession. As the prevalence and standing of conventional print media declines, the PR industry will necessarily morph over years and decades into a hybrid beast, incorporating networking, influencing and social media as its key tenets.
Media of all kinds are almost by definition dominated by curiosity and novelty, with timeframes set by miniscule attention spans. Yet despite the undoubted importance of considering what’s next, we mustn’t forget the importance of what is, what we have already. While I’m aware there are many in the industry ready to gleefully welcome a lobotomised, castrated press, I can’t imagine anything more tragic.
From a PR perspective, no amount of saccharine, tame coverage can beat the engagement and story value brought by a great independent journalist getting behind you. A journalist willing to blandly spew out whatever a PR tells them may bring column inches for the client, but their copy won’t generate actual conversation. A fantastic journalist who gets truly excited by the recommendation of a trusted publicist will be the one to make or break a meme.
Aside from anything else, those with dedication to fact and authenticity- and the training to pursue it- will always be needed as mediators. Even in a world dominated by the chattering of the masses, someone needs to be present to sift through the torrent of useless information to find the gold, not just in terms of the truth, but in terms of what’s genuinely exciting, truly valuable.