Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Fake news, facts and the PR agenda

It seems you can't read a news bulletin at the moment without the topic or question of fake news arising. It seems to be a familiar concept for many, but it's only now that people in power, and in the media, are becoming (perhaps overly) concerned about the implications.

The crux of the argument is that news should be factual, that it should be current, relevant and informed. For many, journalism as a whole has been seen as the 'quest for the truth', writing what others do not want written, searching for the hidden angle, uncovering the covered up. Of course, these are ideals, not that any industry is exempt from such admirable aspirations. 

But in essence, news reporting is meant to be about what's 'new' - and whatever value we attribute to this concept. 

The very rise of fake news as a stream of information is perhaps an antidote to the issues that journalism and news reporting face today; that nobody trusts the news anymore. As politicians have fallen greatly out of favour, so too have reporters in the wake of phone hacking scandals and an increased awareness that reporting the news isn't just about reporting the facts anymore and does not come without an agenda.

For a long time now, the PR profession has been considered as the 'dark arts' to the 'truth seeking' journalism counterpart. Spin has been the name of the game and our recognisable role models, for those outside of PR practice, have ranged from the slimey (Alastair Campbell) and the sleazy (Max Clifford) real life examples, to the tyrannical, expletive driven manipulator  (BBC's The Thick of It's Malcolm Tucker) and the hapless label-loving lush (Eddie Monsoon from Ab Fab) in parodistic fiction. 

These are the icons the industry has had on a public level and they have worked to do nothing more than give PR a PR problem. 


Tuesday, 7 February 2017

What IS public relations?

Despite the fact I have worked in the PR industry for over 11 years and now teach its core principles to the budding practitioners of tomorrow, I still struggle to define what PR is.

And I don't think I am alone.

Ask most people about public relations and you're likely to receive one of three reactions:
  1. A blank expression – they haven’t a clue what PR is.
  2. “It’s like advertising, isn’t it?” – they have a general impression that it’s something to do with marketing but not quite sure what's involved.
  3. A slight sneer, as they think of the PR’s of old – Max Clifford, Alastair Campbell and even Eddie and Patsy of AbFab being the main cultural reference points Joe Public has had for PR professionals.
Any of these responses are perfectly acceptable. As I say, I still struggle to explain what I do in a succinct, easy to understand fashion.
And I don’t believe I’m alone. PR has a bit of a PR problem. 
Why? It’s not a new battle, but recently I’ve seen the definition and responsibility of PR challenged. We’ve never had so many routes to market. But, never before has our target end user been so savvy, so cynical or so in control.

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