11 February 2010

PR pollution

The work of PR professionals is to identify audiences and create campaigns which could influence them by changing their attitudes, habits, perceptions or raising their awareness about particular issues. The most popular and current issue that comes to my mind now is human footprints we leave on the environment. Almost everywhere we look there’s a news story reminding us about it. We pollute Earth with trash and so PR people created social campaigns to warn us about dangers of rising litter or amounts of carbon we produce.

Now reporters created campaign, An Inconvenient PR Truth, targeted at PR people to stop them polluting journalists’ work environment. Apparently public relations industry is contaminating newsrooms with trashy press releases which are irrelevant to reporters and make their work more difficult. 
See the campaign ad here:

In fact, journalists rely heavily on PR industry. As Nick Davis in his book “Flat Earth News” states: today’s (British) newspapers are in 69% written on press releases sent by PR professionals. Tabloids, filled with celebrity stories are covered even more by public relations, and Financial Times is “flooded with PR”. Why then, one might wonder, are journalists targeting PR industry accusing them of spamming and polluting their work?

Well… They have a point. No one likes to get spam or newsletter they haven’t signed up for. Today journalists have enough pressure from their employers nagging them to fill up increasing number of press pages with stories they don’t even have time to look for themselves (what they used to do in the ‘olden’ days). Today journalists’ work is based on sitting behind a desk, email and telephone where a story can find them instead in form of press releases. Yet, if a reporter receives hundreds of stories everyday which are unrelated to the field he/she actually works in, browsing such news releases takes away their precious time and becomes annoying. Why would someone send a fashion news to a sports reporter?

On the other hand PR professionals have to make sure that their message reaches as many people as possible. Some of them probably think “so why not send one press release to every journalist and newspaper on our list and there surely will be someone who will publish our news, right?”

But PR is about connections, contacts, relationships and if PR people don’t do their homework on building up these three things, than their already shattered name will be shattered even more. PR and journalists need each other. Therefore they must live in harmony and make each others jobs as easy as possible.

I have a feeling (maybe it will sound unfair but still…) that many PR people who use such tactic of sending their news releases everywhere hoping that it will be rewritten by at least a few journalists need some more academic background. There are, apparently, some issues they haven’t thought of when entering PR profession.


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