A view of the changing face of journalism and PR from a motorsport perspective

I should preface this post by pointing out that I spent many of my childhood weekends surrounded by racing cars.  When I wasn’t watching my father trackside, I was watching the sport on TV.  While my brother has continued the family tradition, these days, besides the annual trip to Le Mans, my motorsport habit is mostly sustained through traditional and social media.

Maurice Hamilton is a veteran journalist who has been covering Formula 1 since the mid-seventies.  In the video below he talks about how he got started in journalism in the 1970s and how that world has radically changed over the intervening decades.

For anyone with an interest in motorsport it’s recommended, for others, well your mileage may vary Smile.

You better hope that journalism makes it

For all the talk about the death of media, mainstream media, traditional media, broadcast media, print media and online media, since the turn of the century, they’re still hanging on. Sure circulations are down, many traditional papers have closed down, slimmed down or moved online.  But thankfully we still have the media, we still have journalists.

Social media has been great giving people a platform to share their opinions, but it doesn’t negate the need for journalists.

This isn’t a post about bloggers not being journalists by the way.

image

The world isn’t that simple anymore. 

Some bloggers are journalists, some are not. Regardless everyone has opinions and thanks to social media they can share those opinions.  On the whole, and in view of the alternative, that’s a good thing.

However, after twenty years in the Public Relations business, I remain more convinced than ever that journalists are an essential and valuable asset that we must support and protect. 

Their cause hasn’t been helped by the confusion surrounding business models in a world that has a cacophony of often free content. But the value of free content is often tied to the cost. 

If you catch my drift.

As I’ve often said before the great thing about opinions is that everyone has one, and the downside is the same.

We need journalism because we need someone to be looking at our world in an objective manner. Yes I know there are sometimes issues, as I already mentioned, I’ve worked in PR for over twenty years.  I know the issues.

However, in a world of vested interest, give me traditional journalism any day.

I read a lot of blogs.  I read them with a filter.  We know that people (present author included) write blogs for a reason, and it’s not often to do with the finding the truth. People want to showcase their knowledge, share insight, push an agenda, sell their wares. There’s nothing wrong with any of these motivations, but let’s not pretend that it’s a replacement for journalism, it’s an adjunct – at best.

The bottom line is that society needs journalism regardless of your views or leanings.  The medium may indeed be the message, but it doesn’t matter if  journalism is in print, video, audio or online.  What matters is that we have people involved in looking at our world with an objective lens.

Blogs are a tool, they aren’t a replacement for the practice of journalism.

We should all try and remember that.

As the old song goes, all god’s creatures have a place in the choir.

When you’re communicating be true to yourself

Shakespeare wrote that when words are scarce they are seldom spent in vain.

It’s not a problem we typically encounter these days. In fact verbal flatulence is everywhere.


image

Back in olden times (early and mid 1990s) one of the favorite journalist tricks was the pregnant pause. Sit and look at your interviewee. Peer over your spectacles. Say nothing. Watch them squirm at the uncomfortable silence, until hopefully they break and in a vain attempt at appearing interesting and relevant they fill the silence with some nice juicy morsel of previously unreleased information. Having seen this trick work at first hand, I now think its time may have passed. Today the likelihood of a pregnant pause is unlikely.

Silence may indeed be a virtue, but it’s a seldom used virtue. Instead we try our very best to inject noise and volume into everything.

I speak in general terms here, no specifics, just an observation.

It appears the marketing response to the increasing noise of our always-on world is, ironically, more noise.

Shout louder.

Shout more often.

That’s not to say frequency isn’t important. It is. But the big question is the frequency of what. Not to over indulge my Shakespearian theme, but 400 years ago he wrote:

Where every something, being blent together turns to a wild of nothing.

That could be a motto for communications today.

Too often we just decide we need a blog post, with little thought about what we’re trying to achieve, what we’re trying to communicate and how we’ll make the information relevant, interesting, or memorable.

Too often we just write, proof, hit publish and move on.

It’s not just a social media phenomenon. Going back to olden times there were many proponents of getting a press release out regardless of whether there was any actual news. I imagine they’re still asking for press releases and now their poor downtrodden communicators will try and palm them off with a blog post or a tweet. Something that will be dispatched into the cloud -  more in hope than expectation – never to be seen, read or thought of again.

So, the alternative is to take a strategic approach to communications. Get an understanding of your audience, where they are, what they’re reading and sharing and invest the time and energy into creating something memorable. Not once a year for a special occasion or the one time you have some real news, but as part of your daily routine.

So next time you’re asked to ‘create’ a blog post about something no one cares about, remember:

This above all; to thine own self be true.

PR reading for the weekend – July 15, 2011

David Reich has a post about a Ragan.com survey that asked what PR people don’t like about PR. Topping the list is ‘cold calling’.  OK I can understand that.  But what was second on the list? What was the second greatest thing that PR people don’t like about PR?  Apparently it’s having their press releases heavily edited. Seriously? We PR folks are precious creatures aren’t we? My first press release was so heavily edited that you actually couldn’t see the original words.  The funny thing is that it was such a disgrace I actually kept it.  When I moved to Seattle I found it when I was packing up my home office.  I scanned it, but nearly twenty years on I still won’t share it, I’d be mortified.

 

Judy Gombita has an interesting interview with Arthur Yann, vice president of Public Relations for the PRSA. When asked about what he finds professionally frustrating he answered:

I recently wrote about one of my biggest frustrations for the PRBreakfastClub blog. And that is, the number of self-proclaimed experts on Twitter and other social media platforms.  I mean who or what qualifies so many opinions? On what basis in fact are many statements made? Do these industry “observers” actually know anything about what it is they’re commenting about? Have they read and do they understand what they’re re-tweeting, given the third-party perception is that they’re endorsing the content?

Now there’s a man after my own heart. Amen.

 

Heather Yaxley has a post that suggests that journalists and PR practitioners should never be friends. I don’t agree. I’ve worked in this business for nearly twenty years and I’m lucky to count a number of journalists – both in Europe and the United States – as friends – all of whom I’ve met through my work. I don’t buy the Tiger analogy (read the post). As a professional there’s a church and state relationship. If there’s mutual respect and professionalism there’s rarely a problem, if you don’t have either then I’d suggest you’re not friends.

On the PR Conversations site, Heather has an interview with the wonderful Richard Bailey who describes the current state of Public Relations as:

It’s exciting. Public relations is universally needed but widely misunderstood and derided. It’s needed more than ever because of the disruptive power of digital communications, yet is also under threat because of the convergence of communications disciplines.

 

 

You may have seen this already, but via the Lois Paul & Partners Beyond the Hype blog the fantastic Jon Stewart take on the News of the World scandal (not sure if this is available outside the U.S.)…. and personally I think Hugh Grant deserves a lot of credit.

 

 

Finally, I enjoyed reading The Atlantic’s “14 Biggest Ideas of the Year” – hat tip to Piaras Kelly.

 

Have a nice weekend…