Guest Blog: PR and Journalism – Mind the Gap

I’m on holiday right now but my guest blogger this week is Sarah Drane, director of and specialist in real estate, marine and travel PR. She writes...

Twitter. How holy art thou. The instant micro-blogging site provides the platform to berate, befriend, beguile and babble with all and sundry from Twitter supremos such as Bieber and Obama to the key protagonists in your chosen industry - in my case overseas real estate PR.

Now whilst this can be hugely satisfying, not to mention humorous, answering pleas for “a case study of a housebuyer in Mallorca” or swapping a bit of banter about “a house that resembles Hitler/Wendolene/Hilary Clinton* (*delete as appropriate)” Twitter should not be without its health warning. Us PRs can come in for a heck of a lot of stick.

Whilst not on Rooney-esque levels (take an example from one of his ‘loyal’ followers: "I’ll smash ya head in with a pitchin wedge") it seems that a few journos use Twitter to vent their spleen and take pot shots at those of us who are perceived to reside lower down the property media food chain. “Stop putting quotes in bold or italics”, “don’t use the words interestingly and leading – it’s misleading”, “yet another so-called survey to prove a point with a sample size of about three”.

Now, maybe I am missing something here, but I always held the belief that a PR exists (in part) to provide an assisting role in the media process. We’re here to ignite ideas, proffer market analysis and opinion from our clients, draw journalists’ attention to phenomena they may otherwise miss and serve up with a side order of 300dpi visual loveliness. We might even save a bit of bacon by finding a last minute case study on the brink of print deadline (all hail Twitter for that one too).

But, I didn’t actually think that the PR was there to write the news. I thought that was called “churnalism” (a news article that is published as journalism, but is essentially a press release without much added) and people don’t very much like that. So why should it matter if my peers use irritating words in releases and overegg the italic – the journalist’s not going to copy-paste anyway – are they!?

I must admit I have been churnalismed (made up word) in the past. I recall a phase when a property writer for a regional paper used to regularly stick his photo and byline at the top of a perfect copy-paste of my work. I wondered if his bosses knew that he was being paid simply for mastering the art of Ctrl C Ctrl V. No point in complaining though as it was a) a sort of compliment and b) conveyed the exact message my client wished – uncut.

Ok, so we’re not all perfect. I was a little surprised to see that according to PR Census the average salary in the UK PR industry is £48,000. I can think of plenty of PRs who aren’t worth that kind of money based on the tenuous-link-clutching-at-straws press releases I see knocking around. But we are human and many of us academically very bright so probably don’t deserve too much Twitter bashing.

Oh, and on that subject, do be careful of this Twitter lark. Use 140 characters to call Labour MEP Michael Cashman an “idiot” for urging Britons to avoid investing in Spain and you could well end up being quoted in The Observer. Now who would have done that to me…Graham?!

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