Has social media changed the relationship between PR Practitioners and journalists? #Upfordebate

From the moment I embarked on my Magazine Journalism degree, back in 2008, I was very aware of the animosity, which exists between PR practitioners and journalists. Today, as an aspiring PR practitioner I have been exposed to the same hostility but from the opposing viewpoint. It immediately made me question why and look at a relationship, which is plagued with misconceptions.tugofwar

From my understanding Journalists and PR practitioners have always had a precarious relationship, nuanced by a mutual dependency.  Often described as purely functional, their relationship has undoubtedly changed in response to new media technologies – signalling an inevitable shift in power. Prior to the birth of new media platforms, PR professionals would send a press release to a journalist who could then cherry pick the editorial they wished to use based on whether or not it was newsworthy – notably this traditional role has changed. Traditional forms of communication such as newspapers etc. have been overtaken by a new media online environment, which has impacted their relationship.

This new media environment has undermined theories of press ownership and the traditional role of the media being the gatekeeper. PR practitioners now have lots of new tools in their tool box which allows them to communicate effectively with their target audiences.  Of course, their relationship changes depending on what field of the industry they are working in. In fact it could be said that PR Practitioners are still heavily reliant on journalists. With their ability to produce credible press, reaching mass audiences, gaining coverage in mainstream publications is still extremely enviable.  Journalists still have the power – power to press delete or not take their call.

But what causes this animosity? Personally I think that it is due to misguided perceptions and social stereotypes. For example, situations such as PR practitioners pitching material, which has no appeal to the publication’s target audience, frustrates the journalist. Poorly written press releases and bad experiences can also effect their relationship.

PR is about building credible reputations and that means protecting your own reputation as a brand. I have heard on so many occasions that ironically PR practitioners are the worst at raising awareness and promoting their own profiles.  I honestly think that this is true. It is important to research the publication before targeting it directly, this is essential as it prevents wasting the journalists time and vice versa.

One of the downfalls of social media is that it discourages PR practitioners and journalists from interacting with each face to face or over the phone. Before new media technologies, journalists and PR practitioners would spend time forging influential relationships and understanding the style and format of different publications. Journalists would go out into the street and source stories, speak to people in the field and stay in contact with practitioners via telephone. Today, both sides rely heavily on sending each other emails that are sometimes not relevant to the publication or style of the media outlet.

Reporters are often inundated with hundreds of irrelevant emails, phone calls and press releases from PR trying to get their story into the media.

However at the same time, we must remember that social media has allowed journalists and PR practitioners to become closer.  Both industries are able to access and target each other using social media for content, sources, ideas and information Online profiles and social media pages allow both sides to carefully select potential sources and coverage opportunities, as they are able to directly target the most effective platform, publication or print media for their message.

For me it is about gaining a mutual respect, respecting the fact that both industries have important roles to play.

The media will continue to evolve and no matter how much social media tools change this relationship – journalists and PR practitioners will always need to work together. An article in Pr Week summed the situation perfectly.  “Weak newspapers means social media, PR specialists will have a stronger hand. But without a credible press, PR is deprived of a key comms platform that still delivers a mass audience in an era when media are disintegrating.” (PR week February 8)

#Upfordebate has social media changed the relationship between PR practitioners and journalists?

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The dark side of social media – #upfordebate – Do we need to impose stricter regulations


We have heard how the emergence of new media technologies can allow organisations and individuals to forge successful relationships with their target audiences, but what about the dark side of these new media platforms?Social-media

Never before have PR practitioners been able to engage and communicate directly with their audiences without relying on traditional methods of communication. Today, they are able to generate conversations that in an instant reach millions but what happens when it all goes wrong?

Although social networking tools possess many positive qualities they also have a dark side. There is no denying the fact that mediums in a social environment will always-present problems but with their ability to discredit individuals, organisations and services in seconds – PR practitioners must be wary of them. After all they have the power to destroy reputations in an instant.

New media Technologies have evolved at a rapid pace and in response to this ever-changing communication climate, countless debates surrounding theses tools have followed.  Often linked or blamed for instigating wider social issues such as the London Riots in 2011, social media continues to put a spotlight on society, bringing to light how dangerous these innovative tools can be. Throughout the London riots, it was suggested that a lot of the raids had been organised using Twitter, as people tweeted comments such as, “Heading to Tottenham to join the riot! who’s with me? #ANARCHY.”

With so many people free to say and share whatever they want it is not surprising that so many PR fiascos have been linked to social media. It comes down to the fact you are never going to please everyone, not one person thinks the same way. Only in today’s society people have the power to share their views with the world and as we seen in the London riots – influence others…

Account hacking, trolling and the circulation of blatant lies can all destroy an reputation in an instant. Even on my own social networking sites I have seen so many examples of malicious status updates, bullying, upsetting images and people posting images that mock people for the way they look. An article in The Huffington post revealed that, “A third of young people have been victims of online abuse in the past six months, with vicious attacks made not only on their appearance, but also on the grounds of their religion and race.” But above all, these trends seem to spark a chain reaction… Once one person has commented, shared or liked a status everyone seems to follow suit…unaware of the damage this can cause an organisation or individual.

Last week, I was flicking through a magazine when I came across a rather disturbing story which inspired this #Upfordebate blog post. The headline, “The Week Trolling Took Its Darkest Turn.” jumped out at me and as I delved into the article my cautious attitude towards new technology was justified.

Justin Bieber was forced to ask his fans for forgiveness after photos emerged of the singer allegedly smoking marijuana. In response to the news Justin’s fans reacted in a shocking way, sparking a  ‘cutting for Bieber’ trend on Twitter. The emergence of this new trend saw teenagers posting images of themselves self-harming which highlighted how impressionable young people are… People were outraged by the trend and responded by tweeting back,

#cuttingforbieber is one of the most disgusting and disrespectful things i’ve seen. Self harm is not a joke, it’s something very serious.”

The problem is young people are heavily influenced by one another and in the light of these recent revelations it could be said that social media is a bad influence on younger generations. After all vulnerable young people, who are easily impressionable, are being exposed to masses of information which is often not suitable. The media is one of the biggest influences in a teenager’s life which bares the question do we need to focus more on age classifications?

With more than 500 million Twitter users and approximately 1 billion Facebook active accounts. Not to mention to the fact that an article on the BBC revealed that, “Among seven to 16 year olds, 61% have a mobile phone with internet access.” the industry definitely need to focus on regulating and monitoring what is being shared online.

There is no denying that social media is undoubtably a powerful platform for transmitting messages and with it only set to get bigger we need to find ways to control what messages we are being exposed to.


For me, this confirmed the fact that social media is dangerous and can severely impact a campaign. Difficult to monitor and control, messages can be shared, liked and commented on within seconds of posting a message. Yes we can control the message but we cannot control the response. There you go guys – The dark side of social media – do we need to impose stricter regulations?

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He is described as a PR guru and whether you love him or hate him, there is no escaping the fact that he is one of Britain’s best known publicists. But as the industry becomes stronger and continues to evolve – is Max Clifford the type of role model or influence the industry needs? After all, his work has repeatedly been blamed for the industry’s bad reputation.

In an earlier post I mentioned how my friends struggled to define PR and what it truly entailed… Yet I asked them who Max Clifford was and what he did and they did not hesitate to make the obvious link. Therefore, it’s not surprising that the industry is plagued with misconceptions and little social value. So this leads me onto my next #Upfordebate post – is Max Clifford a good role model for the industry or do we need a new face of PR?

I wondered whether the industry really needs the Max Clifford’s of the world condoning lies and deceit as acceptable PR practise? When the majority of PR practitioners possess high ethical standards and generate credible PR material on a daily basis.

But in order to stop the rogues of the industry in their tracks do we need to  impose strict ethical guidelines to stop this type of practise. Or should the industry continue to rely on practitioners using their personal moral judgements to make decisions?  After all PR Practitioners have a commitment to social responsibility and it is their role to protect the public. A concept which does not seem important to Max Clifford.

On the other hand, do his PR techniques and high success levels make him a worthy role model for the next generation of PR Practitioners? After all he is not short of clients and he has been at the top of his game since the 1960’s.Max Clifford

He is undoubtedly a controversial figure who divides the nation in opinion. Unpopular for his choice of clients which include people wanting to sell ‘kiss and tell’ stories to British tabloid newspapers and those accused or convicted of crimes – he invites criticism.  But has he simply tapped into a gap in the market, after all it could be argued that he is merely, ‘protecting the reputation of his clients’ to the best of his ability. If that is the case – isn’t he simply doing his job?

Famous for generating one of the most famous British Headlines, “Freddie Starr ate my hamster,” after the comedian claimed to have put his girlfriend’s hamster between two slices of bread and ate it after a night out – Clifford’s career flourished. He presented the story to the press, who made it front page news. Despite the story being untrue, the headline was extremely successful and was one of the first times Clifford’s name was truly recognised for his ability to manage and influence media content.

But should we admire his ability to generate front page headlines or are is methods completely unacceptable. I often wonder how he justifies his behaviour but most importantly why do journalists continue to accept his editorial, comments and stories when most of the time they are obviously untrue.


Today, PR is in a stronger position and as many PR Practitioners embrace a shift in power – the industry is thriving. More and more practitioners are being recognised for their high standards and ability to generate credible news content.

However, with no guidelines or mandatory education or training – PR practitioners are still free to use their own moral judgements in their work, paving the way for both villans and heroes in the industry.

Often labelled as spin-doctors, unethical and liars, Max Clifford falls into all of these categories. So, it is not surprising that as one of the industry’s most recognisable publicists, he has the power to influence society’s initial perceptions of the PR industry.

Should we learn from him or should there be a compulsory code of conduct which has the power to impose strict regulations – stamping out the rogues of the industry? There you go guys, my next #Upfordebate topic. As always I would love to hear your thoughts.


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E45 Advert? You’ll be hooked – a genius advertising strategy or bad taste? #Upfordebate

“You don’t want to advertise your moisturiser like it is heroin.” This was an angry Tweet in response to E45’s new controversial TV advertisement. Accused of trivialising the issue of drug addiction and therefore, inevitably sparking an angry debate – I still can’t quite work out whether or not this is a genius advertising strategy or massively inappropriate.A2329431B0355296CDE38543F19D29

It usually takes a lot for a television advertisement to grab my attention, during AD breaks I’m usually scrolling through Facebook or it’s an excuse to have a quick gossip with my mam. But yesterday evening, a new E45 advertisement caught my attention. Prompted to engage with the TV after hearing the words…

“It all started with a small dose. All my friends were using it. I immediately liked it and wanted more.”

“It became routine. It affected how I looked and how I felt. I couldn’t stop thinking about it.”

My curiosity got the better of me and I was literally ‘hooked’ to the TV set. Thinking it was a dark charity advert; about the perils of drug addiction, I was intrigued to see how a charity tackled this issue. Featuring a pale-looking woman in a dark basement, anxiously rubbing her arms – it made me sit up and watch.

But I definitely could not have predicted her next statement, “It was the perfect daily moisturiser, it’s so light and smells great – I was hooked.”

I was immediately in a dilemma, was this 40-second advert simply a genius advertising strategy or was it attention grabbing for all the wrong reasons? Described as misleading and misguided in angry Tweets, E45 has so far declined to comment. Take a look at the advertisement.

In comparison to their 2009 campaign – they are quite literally worlds apart.

On the other hand was this element of surprise simply a genius advertising strategy? After all it 1. Sparked conversation (even if it has sparked controversy) and 2. You remember the message. Even if you agree or disagree with its obvious link to drug addiction – you will remember the link between E45 and being hooked. It certainty stuck in my mind.

The campaign has already sparked much debate, Twitter has a whole feed of angry consumers criticising E45’s advertising tactics. Using #E45 to vent and share their anger, there seems to be a shared consensus that the advert is tasteless and shows poor judgement.

“Appalled by new E45 advert which undermines & mocks drug addiction with a tacky cry for attention. Poor judgement.  @ActionAddiction

“For the first time in my life I have complained to the ‪@ASA_UK about an advert. ‪#E45 , shame on you!”

However, being daring and creative are the components which make great advertisement campaigns. After all some of the greatest campaigns have been those that have sparked much debate and conversation. It is also worth remembering that you are never going to please everyone. Each and every one of us have different opinions and viewpoints on a range of different topics and issues. If we worried about upsetting or offending everyone in society, the media industry would be a dull environment.

I am hoping to provoke lots of opinions with this debate. Is the E45 advertisement a great piece of advertising or is using the slogan, “You’ll be hooked” in the context and environment in which the advertisement was set, simply a step too far? The campaign is currently being investigated under the ASA.

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Is traditional PR dying? #upfordebate

With more and more organisations investing less time and money on promotional events, print material and press releases, it made me question whether or not traditional PR is dying or will it always have a valued place in the media industry? The reason for this is an obvious link to changing social trends and the fact that there are a lot more tools in a PR’s box.

Staying one step ahead and experimenting with new media technologies is an integral part of the industry however; caution should be taken when assessing how they compare to traditional methods of communication. After all, why change something that works. It is beyond me why organisations would steer away from traditional strategies and tactics that still play an important role in raising awareness and changing attitudes.newspaper

There seems to be a social perception that traditional methods of communicating are a thing of the past but I think that we shouldn’t write them of just yet. If you have been reading my previous blog posts you would have picked up on the fact that one of my pet hates are organisations that launch social media campaigns with little understanding of how they can actually benefit their business.

The lure of online advertising and social media is extremely appealing to organisations. Lets face it, they have the ability to engage mass audiences, reach specific target audiences and above all they cost nothing to invest in.

And when it comes to evaluating and analysing their impact on the campaign, there are masses of tools available to analyse whether the social media campaign has been a success.

It’s very easy to get caught up in embracing new media technologies but practitioners must remember that it is still mainly a generation trend.  Last week my mam asked me if I was using, “Twitspace” obviously referring to Twitter. This opened my eyes and confirmed my fear that many organisations seem to forget that social media is still very much embraced by young consumers. Yes, statistics reveal that the majority of the UK population own a smart phone but this doesn’t mean that they are engaging with all aspects of the technology.

A headline in PR Week stated, “Youngsters Shun newspapers.” With more and more youngsters admitting that they have never picked up a newspaper before – online media is thriving. But older generations still see the value in traditional press and they remain loyal to their favourite mainstream publications. Not forgetting the fact that traditional media outlets still have higher circulation figures.

Investing time in traditional media can give you the best of both worlds. Remember if you manage to secure credible press coverage in newspapers they will most likely have a sister online publication and the ability to upload the same content online too. And most importantly, people still read newspapers.

So what does this mean for traditional PR. Since the rapid emergence of social media platforms many organisations are not using traditional PR at all. I decided to look at some of the reasons why we shouldn’t write it off just yet…

  • Credibility – Earning editorial space in print publications increases the credibility of the piece, especially if they are featured in mainstream publications.
  • Circulation – You can almost guarantee that your message will be seen based on the circulation of a publication. The same can’t be said for social media, as people might not see or engage with the post.
  • Events – this is the perfect opportunity to network and gain extra media coverage whether it is in print, radio or broadcast.

I hope that traditional PR is not dying, as it is still extremely valuable. Yes social media is important, it has and no doubt will continue to thrive. I think it is important to remember the value of traditional communication methods. For me it is about establishing the needs and expectations of your target audience and choosing the best channel of communication based on their needs.

But what do you think. I would be interested to hear your experiences using both traditional and social media? Is traditional PR dying and if so what does this mean for the industry?

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How APP ‘T’ #Upfordebate Is Augmented reality a passing fad or do they hold long-term value?

According to the Daily Mail, “1 in 7 of us have a smart phone as the number of owners passes one billion.” And with, “nearly one in three adults in the UK now using a smart phone, according to a report by the telecoms regulator Ofcom” It’s not surprising that Augmented reality is fast becoming an integral part of many PR campaigns.

Almost every brand wants a viral video or a social media campaign that generates hype and engagement. Not only do they have the ability to catapult a brand into the media spotlight but they also allow their target audiences to engage and interact with the brand – creating a virtual experience and bringing the brand identity to life.

imagesWith organisations investing millions of pounds in response to this new method of communication, I can’t help but wonder how these expensive tools benefit organisations. Is it a tool worth investing in or is it simply a passing fad?

Augmented reality is basically a creative App tool, which allows audiences to interact with a brand. It could also be described as an interactive advertisement. They work by holding a smart phone or tablet over an image. Once a connection is made, the recipient has access to more virtual content in the form of a real-world environment.  They offer audiences a fun and creative way to invest time in a brand.

This all sounds very exciting but is there actually an appeal for augmented reality?  I don’t know about you but there never seems to be enough minutes in the day to go about my daily routine as it is. I simply cannot picture myself having time to stop in the street and utilise this creative tool. Making me question whether they are simply tools for a narrow segment of society or for people with a lot of time to kill? If so are they worth investing in?

I spent some time looking at the augmented reality apps already in the public domain and to be honest I hadn’t heard of many of them – proving that it is all very well embracing new media technologies – the hard work is building momentum.

In my previous blog posts I have mentioned how many organisations have little understanding when it comes to distinguishing what types of social media tools are right for their campaign and how they can utilise them effectively.  I see so many organisations jumping on the band waggon when it comes to implementing these new media technologies into their campaigns, when first and foremost they should be asking is this type of technology right for the campaign and the target audience.

Examples of augmented reality in action

Although all of these examples are extremely creative, I personally think that they are tools which people would use once and never again. If they even have time and the desire to use them at all. The Starbucks campaign in particular stood out as being aimed at the wrong audience. The whole concept of watching  an ice skater, a squirrel, a boy and a dog sledging come to life on your screen seems an interactive experience a younger audience would enjoy – not Starbuck’s target audience. I can’t see the fascination in interacting with cartoon characters on a cup. But hey, that’s just me.

I think it is all about understanding how and when this creative tool can be utilised in relation to a brand’s target audience and brand values? What do you think – should we embrace augmented reality as a long-term creative tool or is it simply a passing fad and a waste of money? As always I would love to hear your thoughts.

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Power struggle – Have social media tools changed the relationship between PR practitioners and Journalists? #upfordebate

In my last blog post, I talked about “The Changing Face of PR” So, I thought it was quite appropriate for this #upfordebate blog post to follow.

From my understanding journalists and PR practitioners have always had a precarious relationship, nuanced by a mutual dependency. Prior to the birth of new media platforms, journalists were evidently more powerful than PR practitioners, as they had the power to deliver their messages to wider audiences through powerful mediums such as print, radio and broadcast.  Today, the emergence of social media tools have altered their relationship as PR Practitioners have access to new communication methods. The big question is has social media sparked a shift in power – changing their relationship?

Before the emergence of new media technologies, the way PR practitioners transmitted strugglestory1their intended messages was synonymous with the transmission of editorial through traditional news media such as print, broadcast and radio. This meant that PR practitioners were heavily reliant on forging good relationships with journalists, who had the power to transmit their messages to mass audiences. Long lunches and phones calls were part and parcel of their role as they built transparent relationships.

The journalist had the power to cherry pick the editorial that they wished to feature in their publications. Today, Journalists have lost a lot of that control, as there are now a lot of tools in a PR’S box, paving the way for a shift in power.

A decline in newspapers, staff cuts in newsrooms and the emergence of new media technologies mean that the PR industry’s position is getting a lot stronger. Journalists are forced to fill their papers with PR material, as they simply do not have the time to use traditional methods to source stories.  Whilst flicking through my weekly dose of PR Week I came across an article, which summed the situation up in a nutshell.

“I don’t rely on papers anymore for a lot of the work I do. I can get the message out on Twitter and Facebook. Maybe 20 years ago we used to really worry about whether the paper would take our stuff. Now we don’t really need to worry about it. If you want to get a global message out you just pay a little to PR, Newswire and anyone with a Google alert on the subject globally will see it. You don’t have to rely on whether journalists are in a good mood that morning or if they like you.” (PR Week, February 8)

Journalists are now heavily dependent on PR Practitioners to churn out press releases in order to fill their newspapers.

On the other hand the emergence of these new tools have also had a positive effect on their relationship as they are able to access and target each other using social media for content, sources, ideas and information.  Both industries have access to platforms such as Twitter to pitch story ideas.

Although new media technologies have sparked this shift in power, we must also acknowledge the fact that journalists still have the power to press delete or not take your call.

I believe that it is vital to appreciate the importance of both sides of this functional relationship and although their relationship may alter from time to time in response to changing social trends – it will always be a relationship bound by a mutual dependency. It is a very important relationship and I believe that both sides could not exist without each other. What do you think, have social media tools changed their relationship?

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