The PRCA, or the Public Relations and Communications Association for the uninitiated, laid on an extremely informative and lively debate session for us PRs to attend this week, addressing the new media landscape and what it means for the communications industry as a whole.
I had the pleasure of tagging along on behalf of Whiteoaks, and was witness to a collection of great industry minds imparting their triumphs and bugbears on what they see happening in newsrooms across the UK.
The mood is generally buoyant, but plagued by an issue that has reared many times, and has had several monikers in the past – of course I’m talking about fake news, but perhaps more generally, trust.
As we know trust takes only a second to destroy. Unfortunately, due to none other than fake news, and the residual memory of the phone hacking scandal and those ‘dodgy dossiers’, trust in established reporting establishments has been eroded.
Readers are now saying they trust search engines over professional journalism, and on occasion are struggling to tell if they’re being duped by fake news, or seeing a factual account of events. Couple this with the blurring of advertorial and editorial content and readers can be forgiven for thinking either they’re being lied to or swayed towards a certain agenda, or both.
Journalists must now fight this. On one side, they’re being tasked with producing quality, reliable and trustworthy content, on the other, they’re being asked to match the pace and agility of social media. Both are trying to achieve the same goal of increasing web traffic and advertising revenue. (The newspaper vs. internet money debate can be for another day).
It is vital for PRs to know this and be mindful. At Whiteoaks, we use the knowledge and experience of our leadership team to guide us in an industry we have also witnessed transform over the past decade.
We realise the key to media relations, now more than ever, lies in the relations — a sentiment echoed by the PRCA. There are facts about journalists’ codes of ethics that PRs must also adhere to.
Reporters are held accountable for their stories, and rightly so. They also have pressure placed upon them to collect credible sources. Throughout Whiteoaks our mantra is to be these trusted sources for a journalist; we aren’t just shooting story ideas through a scattergun, hitting multiple inboxes with irrelevant, un-substantiated or bias material. We are taking quality content, created with our clients’ expertise, and packaging it up into a topical story that journalists’ want to read, and more so, that audiences would find interesting and informative.
The other reality check Whiteoaks has worked hard to adapt to, and a big talking point that the PRCA addressed with us this week, is that newsrooms are shrinking.
Once upon a time, journalists had a photographer, designer and video editor at hand to complete a package. Nowadays, they must create or source almost all of it themselves, to deadline.
What does that mean for us? Well when we’ve done our research, built a story with a real meaty substance and found the right journalist, we make sure we’re not leaving them all the legwork to do, because if not, they won’t — or more accurately, they can’t.
As an agency Whiteoaks is able to achieve multiple quality media coverage hits because we’re on the pulse of the industry. We get to know our journalists, we find out why they struggle, what they’re looking for and how we can help them achieve their goals – then, simple of all, we act on it.
Overall, my main takeaway from my half-day with the PRCA is that communication and trust are key for both the PR and media industries to evolve and work together. These most human of traits are what we must get through to journalists, and most importantly, their readers.