When I said I would be writing a blog about a significant anniversary everyone in the office assumed I was about to wax lyrical about Diana, Princess of Wales. It’s true I could fill pages on that subject, but the anniversary currently occupying my mind is a more of a personal one – marking 20 years in PR.
It is hard to believe it has been that long since I left journalism and took up residence on the other side of the fence. And how both professions have changed in that time.
Very few of my regional newspaper colleagues remain in print journalism. As cuts and shrinking readership numbers took effect many of them turned to PR or made a total career change. Those still in the business find themselves with bigger patches to cover and are often forced to multi-task – taking their own photos or videos for use on the online editions of the newspapers – and covering subjects such as health and education that would previously have had a dedicated editor.
And as for PR… In my first PR job we had two six foot tall cupboards full of client press paper because we had to print and post releases – along with photo transparencies which had detailed captions stuck on by hand in case they got separated from the release. Then there was the revelation of multi-fax , which removed the need to stand by the fax machine for hours at a time, before we finally got to grips with the one dial-up internet connection in the office. And the worst job each month? Being handed the forward features book – which was a printed document equivalent in size to three phone books, that had to be physically read through for relevant features.
Wind back 20 years and news journalists, especially in the regions, often regarded PR people as an irritant, depicted perfectly by Absolutely Fabulous. I clearly remember having to explain to a London-based agency that ‘no, Bradford is not in Birmingham’.
But now, with dwindling resources in print media the boot is often on the other foot, with journalists increasingly reliant on quality PR content. Certainly, in our B2B PR world, magazines with editorial teams of one often relying on us to help fill their pages.
It might be 20 years, but never have the writing skills from my years in journalism been more relevant and useful. Something for all budding PR practitioners to bear in mind.
Now, it’s time for me to watch one of the documentaries on that other anniversary….