It’s beyond doubt that PR has changed massively, and continues to do so, thanks to the opportunities created by digital communications and the diversification of traditional media.
CIPR president-elect Stephen Waddington asked a room full of comms people at the South West Communicators’ Conference in Bristol recently how many had bought a newspaper that morning, and only one confirmed that they had. It’s possible that some people in the room were too busy on their tablets or smart phones to realise he was asking them a question. But he had made the key point; that the media is changing rapidly and communicators must respond to this. Many operators in the South West are rising to this challenge with some great work, as Bristol agency Spirit demonstrated with its support for the Gromit Unleashed campaign in the city.
Despite this shift, it seems some bad habits, in some quarters, remain – at least as far as many journalists are concerned. We heard from the writer behind the Slummy Single Mummy blog, The Daily Telegraph’s cookery correspondent, publisher of the Foodie Bugle magazine, editors of the Bath Chronicle and West Briton and tabloid journalist and sweary blogger Fleet Street Fox. Many of their frustrations were those I experienced almost a decade ago when I worked in newspapers. Poor spelling and grammar, getting the name of the recipient wrong (irritating), badly targeted material (why me?), ‘hit and run’ announcements sent to the media before the PR disappears (infuriating) and not responding to queries (inexcusable) were all common themes. It seems some things haven’t changed fast enough.
Fleet Street Fox got plenty of responses on Twitter when she sought the views of fellow journalists on how PRs should work with them. The responses are in the above thread, and I’ve included one example below, so that you get the picture.
@fleetstreetfox Tell them to answer their bloody 'phones
— Interchange (@Interchange4) October 24, 2013
If you’d like more detail, this blog post from Hamish Thompson features responses from many journalists who gave up time from their hectic schedules to respond to a survey asking for examples of bad practice. I assume they weren’t on deadline when they were approached.
It’s not easy maintaining a good relationship with the media. But this feedback shows that putting the effort in and getting the basics right may prevent a complete breakdown.