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PR and Press - are we really so different?

February, 2012

It’s the perennial question asked of journalists who leave the ‘sanctity’ of the newsdesk to join a PR agency: Why have you sold your soul and turned to the ‘dark side’? With many of the team at Maxim being former journalists we’re very aware of the ‘them and us’ attitude.

It is easy to characterise the relationship between the two professions as a game of poacher and gamekeeper with the PR agency doing all they can to protect their clients from a predatory media. And it’s certainly true that there are occasions when we most definitely feel as though we are on opposite sides. Bust-ups, failings and scandals undoubtedly make for good news stories – but are hardly likely to be welcomed by the businesses concerned and their PR agencies.

It can be frustrating for PR agencies if they are continually having to refute stories that have no basis in fact. Equally, it must be tiring for the media when they feel they are being stonewalled.

In part it’s about understanding where the other party’s coming from. Journalists often need quick responses, but if bad news breaks, one of the worst things you can do is to issue an ill-considered response without having first marshalled all the facts about a situation – and that can take time.

Understanding and respect

Ideally, the relationship between a PR and a journalist should be built upon an understanding and respect for the other’s position.

A recent survey of journalists by Maxim suggests that PRs still have some way to go to win over the media. On a positive note, more than half (58%) of respondents viewed PR people as a ‘useful ally’ while a further 37% saw the role of PR people as a ‘necessary evil’. But a significant minority (12%) considered PRs to be a ‘pain in the neck’.

Before entering the PR profession and founding Maxim in 1995, Philip Jones trained and worked as a journalist. He believes that while there may sometimes be good reasons why journalists and PRs don’t see eye-to-eye, there is no inherent reason why the relationship has to be combative.

“There are good and bad people in every profession – journalism and PR included,” he said. “But if you have an understanding of how the media works and what journalists need, it should in general be possible to develop a good ongoing relationship with them.”

The current economic climate may actually be helping to improve the relationship. The loss of journalism jobs has encouraged many reporters to review their career options. Not surprisingly many are choosing to switch to a career in PR and are helping to narrow the gap between the two industries.

Philip Jones - Associate

Philip Jones

Maxim / Associate

posted in: media relations, public relations,

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