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  • Writer's pictureTim Woodham

Journalism versus Public Relations – the difference. By journalist Kenny Weir.

Journalism versus Public Relations

Reporting and news, on the one hand, and public relations, on the other? They’re like, well, chalk and cheese, night and day. Well … no.

It would give me pleasure and satisfaction to state that’s the case. But these days it’s simply not so.

Sadly, from a hardcore journo point of view, the differences can be very slight – and often non-existent.

And there are ways to turn this to the advantage of you and your business.

It’s all down to the dizzying changes that have and are sweeping through the media and business worlds – and the world in general.

As legacy media has frantically scrambled to maintain its place in the IT-driven landscape – sometimes we’re talking about mere toeholds – many thousands of employees have been laid off.

This means that reporters who, in decades past, may have been expected to rustle up a handful of stories a week, if that, are assigned that many and more every day.

In our game, it’s called The Churn.

Sure, there remain a few places where in-depth, time-consuming and expensive reporting goes – but they are rare.

There are spin-offs to this state of affairs. Reporters inevitably have become much more reliant on press releases and information supplied by businesses, governments and councils and all their tentacles, lobby groups of all kinds and any savvy citizen smart enough to work out which way the wind is blowing and skilful enough to sail with it.

As well, laid-off journalists have to go somewhere – and a sizeable number of them head straight into the PR world to earn their crust practising the Dark Arts. Makes sense.

If I ran a business or organisation that required regular inter-action with the media, I, too, would be snapping up such talent.

Into this murky, confusing world, are stepping the likes of the AFL and many other organisations that are setting up their own media units, staffed by ex-journalists.

So let’s re-phrase the original premise: What’s the difference between ineffective PR, on the one hand, and effective PR, on the other?

Ineffective PR serves up poorly written and targeted press releases in which the nugget(s) that may catch the eyes of reporters or editors are buried.

Inevitably, such efforts are way too long-winded. These go unread and are hastily dispatched to the trash file.

The focus of your media release is also important. Journalists aren’t interested in your business or organisation. They are interested in their readers, listeners and viewers.

Media releases and story approaches that display smart, journalist-friendly thinking have a very good chance of going straight into the newspaper or to air..

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