By Leigh Andrews
Looking back at what I’ve written about these topics in the past, I was quite surprised. There is so much information out there, and yet people still get confused about where exactly to draw the line regarding what exactly counts as media/PR/marketing/advertising. There are the obvious differences and definitions of course: media is generally the platform through which publicity and marketing messages are spread – PR would be the free or ‘earned’ space, usually at the discretion of the media depending on time or space constraints depending on whether it is print, online or broadcast media, while marketing is paid for and planned in advance, including other platforms such as outdoor media (think of all the ads we pass during a commute. They are on and in bus stops, on street poles and billboards.
I’ve decided to explore these ‘differences’ over the next few articles, starting with the PR industry, as it’s the one people seem to know the least about. As part of a six-month internship programme run by Newsclip last year, I compiled basic information on the PR, media and marketing industries. What struck me when going over the notes is that I once again focused on the differences between these industries. I defined PR by stating, “It’s all in the term PR – Public Relations officers work on Publicity and Public Relations for their clients by sending out Press Releases to Publications.” I added that press release content is easy to spot in publications as it is usually topped with the byline ‘staff reporter’ – sometimes facts are added, but the release is usually just edited to meet the publication’s in-house style. Put another way, the PR industry relies on mass communication media channels to get a certain message seen by the largest number of people possible. The question then is usually: ‘but marketing does that too, so how do they differ?’ The first part of the answer is alluded to above, in that it’s about the money: Marketing and advertising appear in the media as the space or time has been paid for. PR, on the other hand, appears in publications because it has earned the space. The information is thus relevant to the specific content mandate of the media channel, and the PR officer has a good relationship with the publication’s editorial team (another topic I have written about extensively this past year).
This brings us to the ‘dark side divide
’, which is the love/hate relationship that exists between the PR and media industries. They need each other to survive, as PR provides good content for the media to write about and the media provides a platform for PR to raise awareness of its clients, but there are often problems with this relationship. Two of the most common of these are the ‘spray and pray’ approach, which we are hoping will die an early death, and ‘churnalism
’. Spray and pray content is sent out to all and sundry without being personalised to the specific needs of the media, and does not address a specific recipient – it is a message spread far and wide in the hope that someone will publish it. Churnalism, on the other hand, is when a journalist receives a press release and publishes it almost as is – not with a ‘staff reporter’ byline, but instead claiming it to be their own work, without acknowledging the press release. This is a serious problem as it brings down the quality of journalism, especially if a number of publications churn out the same content.
So, how do we solve this ‘dark side divide’? What’s interesting is that journalists and PR officers often cross industries, as they work in the one and then move across to the other. This is actually the best way to solve the divide, as both sides get a feel for how the other works. Journalists will publish PR content if it is something they would have written about anyway, and PRs need to follow up to find out whether the content they provided was used, in order to prove they have done a good job for their clients. But, PR is about more than just sending out press releases. Publicity for a certain cause or charity can be provided if the journalist thinks it is a worthy topic – this would be unexpected by the PR officer if they did nothing to initiate the journalist writing about their client.
Do you agree with these points? Let us know your thoughts by sending an email to email@example.com