If PR is the darkside, then hand me a torch

An interview with the features’ editor of a prominent London paper this week included the question ‘would you consider moving to a PR role’ and her answer was telling. “I’m not sure I’m cut out to deal with people like me all day.”

And there it is. An admission from a journalist that the life of a PR professional is probably not all sunshine and roses.

She’s right. It’s not. We must be nice to people who are not always nice to us. Her comment that we should ‘trust the journalist to do their job and know what works’, is another sucker punch. Because we know what works too. And yet many journalists, especially on national newspapers, refuse to acknowledge the part PR plays.

It is many, many years since I made the switch from regional journalism to the darkside. And yes, people really did use that very phrase to describe my defection to PR. At the time some elements of the PR world had a bit of a frivolous reputation, not helped by people in London PR agencies ringing a Yorkshire newsroom and saying things like “Bradford, that’s near Birmingham isn’t it?”

A couple of decades on and the media landscape has changed significantly. Newsrooms have shrunk, as has the number of jobs available. Social media influences every type of reporting and every man and his dog thinks they can write. In our world of B2B PR, many trade publications operate with just one qualified journalist.

The result is that journalists need good PR people more than ever.

As an agency we try to do the right thing – we only call journalists when we have a story that we are confident fits their remit and has strong news value. We don’t make follow-up calls every five minutes. We hit deadlines. We don’t waste anyone’s time. And we are always polite. There are agencies out there that don’t live by these standards, but they are in the minority.

So, it is frustrating to read comments from a journalist that suggest PR is somehow a lesser profession and acknowledge that they are not always nice to the hard-working people that are trying to make their lives easier. But, while there are still days when I miss the buzz of a newsroom, I am glad I’m on this side of the fence – even if some still think it is darker…

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