Importance of a compelling story makes journalism and PR closer than we think
The worlds of journalism and public relations are either close relations or worlds apart – depends on who you ask. Coming from one industry to another, I can say both statements are probably true, depending on whether you focus on the similarities, or the many differences. From journalist to public relations professional was a transition I was keen to make, but in all honesty I underestimated the extent of the change. Three years on and I have to say I feel a lot more confident on this side of the divide. Journos love to refer to PR as the ‘dark side’ but I’m here to say it’s far from ‘dark’ – a lot of light in fact, and the practitioners just as hardworking and committed as their reporter cousins.
I spend a lot of my time these days talking to journalists about client stories and I feel like it’s an advantage to have been on both sides of the communications equation. I remember when PR people sent through story pitches or rang through to the news desk and I think I was always pretty polite, recognising they had a job to do, just as we did, and appreciating the fact that, yes, sometimes there was a solid story idea on the end of the line that would appeal to our local readership.
It’s also a fact that journalists can’t be across every potential story and so PR agencies and communications managers have a role to play in bringing these stories to light and making the job of the journalist as streamlined as possible when it comes to the likes of interviewees, images and case studies. It’s not a blow to journalistic integrity to see the value in some of these story pitches and it’s short-sighted to reject a story idea just because it’s offered up by a PR agency. Great stories, and compelling communication, is as important to one industry as it is the other. Just one of a whole raft of qualities each profession shares.
Each side of this communications divide can certainly work together to get stories out to audiences and recognise the value in each profession. This was brought home to me recently when I heard a high-profile broadcast journalist question the place of PR professionals in the communications landscape, suggesting journalism had morals and substance, while public relations would struggle to spell them. Pretty narrow view, I thought – and said as much – particularly from someone whose own profession is jokingly ranked right up there – or down there – with used car salesmen and real estate agents.
I don’t want to denigrate a job I once loved because the point I’m making is that for all our differences, there’s also similarities and synergies between our two industries, and we should appreciate that at times we can work really effectively together. And myself and my colleagues do, every day, work collaboratively with journalists across the country in a variety of areas, and with really great results. They appreciate the information we provide on stories of potential interest and the access we offer to the people they’re interested in speaking to, and we value their consideration of our stories and the exposure they provide if it’s of enough interest.
We also respect the fact they’re under no obligation to publish anything, but will take the time to listen to what we’re putting forward. Our reporter contacts also appreciate the fact we’re not going to waste their time with worthless pitches, either without any story value or not relevant to their particular area of interest.
They know they can trust us, too, and that’s really important in this symbiotic relationship – mutual trust. You see, this is one of our similarities – the need for honesty and transparency across all of our relationships. For public relations, that means a trusted relationship between us and the journalists we deal with, between ourselves and our clients, and, through us, between our client and their audience. Neither profession can operate, and even exist, without that level of trust, and it’s been my experience that those committed to the job they do and the people they serve – be that journalists or PR professionals – work very hard to nurture meaningful relationships based on the foundations of honesty, integrity and professionalism.
And, I can honestly say, I’m as proud of the work I do now as I was of the stories I wrote and oversaw as a journalist, sub-editor and chief-of-staff. Sure, the work and aims are different up to a point, but at the end of the day I’m still telling the stories I loved writing as a journalist, and I see the impact these stories can have for our target audiences. The job’s rewarding and challenging, and the sun still shines.
‘Dark’? Not in the slightest.
By Kylie Galbraith