Who's afraid of the big, bad PR wolf?

The double-page spread in today's media supplement in the Danish business daily Børsen about the defection of journalists to PR in the country will nourish a feeding frenzy of media academics from years to come. What messages, what metaphors - what a load of rubbish.
Slap bang in the middle of the page is an illustration showing big business (yes he"s smoking a cigar, yawn) ringed by faceless PR people in suits to keep away the poor, bemused journalist (yes, he"s got a press pass in his hat bad).

And the headlines: "Media loses ground to PR", "Press departments threaten balance of power", "Course leader: We will not teach PR".

And all this comes on top of an excellent post by former FT journalist turned blogger Tom Foremski, MediaWatch: Why Some Journalists Won"t Transition To The New Journalism  who references an excellent article by Amy Graham at www.poynter.org called Journalism: A Toxic Culture? (Or: Why Aren"t We Having More Fun?)

Both the posts are about the inability of journalists to adapt to the new culture of internet-based media because of their unwillingness to accept change. One of the six reasons given by Graham and commented on by Foremski is:

Priesthood syndrome: Traditional journalists are the sole source of news that can and should be trusted -- which gives them a privileged and sacred role that society is ethically obligated to support.

The Børsen Story
Now let"s look at that Børsen story again in the light of the fading light of the priesthood of journalism and the growing legions of faceless PR people.

Well, as Gruppenführer in a PR company (actually,that"s not my real title, but if we succeed in crushing journalism forever, who knows?) I think that the Børsen article is one-sided and under-researched.

That the demand for communications people is growing in Denmark is not in doubt, but the article fails to look at some key facts such as:

Compared with other western, liberal economies, Denmark has a conservative business culture and has been way behind in their use of PR and communications people. The explosion of media outlets and the growing aggressiveness of primarily news journalists has meant they are playing catch-up.

The article doesn"t say how many of the newly appointed communication people are internal or external. Denmark excels in internal communication that is inclusive and comprehensive; the faceless PR people are in fact concerned and committed colleagues who have been known to walk rather than communicate badly.

PR people on a global scale are also being challenged by the reduction in the number of journalists. We actually like journalists because they are the people we send our stories to.

Break down
The whole traditional media model is breaking down and that will effect all aspects of the business. PR people are also struggling to embrace new PR or PR 2.0 or web PR, call it what you will.

I started in this business as a journalist on a local paper more than 20 years ago and that has always informed my work in internal communications and PR. The "us and them" model doesn"t work anymore. In the networking society where PR people and journalists live side by side on a LinkedIn profile, we are just kidding ourselves if we think it does.
 

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