For many years there has been a strained relationship between PR professionals and journalists. The latter feel they are ‘above’ being provided with a story or lines to take and should avoid communicators operating for businesses or organisations. It is surprising the gulf that can exist particularly as many PR professionals started their working lives as journalists, like me. After all the truth lies within the pages of the newspaper or on the latest TV news bulletin, doesn’t it?
On Thursday I will have the chance to speak about ‘fake news’ and the impact that it can have not just on organisations but on individuals and families. (It is the Chartered Institute of Public Relations North West AGM and talk) What is fake news is it lies, a failure to tell the truth or an avoidance of the facts of a situation? Shockingly the presentation I will give in 48 hours was about ‘fake news’ that was rooted in the traditional media. But that isn’t the point of this blog.
It is increasingly looking like PR could save the media from the scourge of fake news. How? Well, if PR professionals are pushing the ethics agenda and are operating with integrity then they can stop misinformation from organisations. It is this truth that can be of significant value to journalists faced with a tide of information both correct and inaccurate that swamps them through digital channels every day.
If this is to be effective in terms of a relationship, then there has to be an increase of trust between the two professions. Journalists need to feel confident that PR professionals are operating at the highest ethical level so that they can provenance the information. Communicators need to be able to trust that reporters will check out their facts and sources before rushing to print or broadcast. It should be less about chasing the online clicks and more about securing their position as a truthful source of information.
There is a lot of work that needs to take place to bring the two professions together. If we can bridge the gap then both journalists and PR officers could reap significant benefits in an era dominated by the online challenge of fake news.