Public Relations: the Masters Now was the title of a recent event at the Royal College of Art. One of the ideas was that the old concepts of PR as spin and ‘economy with the truth’ are giving way to a wider understanding – and that journalism can no longer always claim the moral high ground. We are also continuously being told that direct access to digital media is changing the balance of power, with PR practitioners less reliant on journalists.Many of us would agree that an effective press release should read just like a news story in its target media. Certainly more and more press releases are published with little or no editing. But PR people simply cannot offer the balance and critical insight that good journalists can – and it is their input which can turn a bland story into a compelling one.
I admit that I once ended up playing both roles. Working in local government I suggested to the council leader that we should also invite an opposition spokesperson to comment in a press release on a new housing development. I assured him that I thought the opposition politician would be supportive. This turned out not to be true and the press release was issued with comment criticizing the development.
Of course this prompted a call from a surprised journalist suggesting that I was trying to do his job for him.