In this opinion piece, David Frost (pictured below) – a former AFR journo and now CEO of PR Deadlines – examines just how valuable public relations agencies are to the media.
As an executive journalist on the Fin Review two decades or so ago, too much of my time was spent trashing PR handouts. Eventually head-hunted by a PR agency that wanted someone who could actually write, it took me a while to reach an equilibrium.
Balancing the needs of clients and journalists is key to the relationship – a concept that is easy to discuss yet often difficult to achieve.
Today’s information and communication technology (ICT) writers are more time-poor than ever before. Fewer journos are writing and editing more copy, so we strive to give them what they need – clear, concise and relevant text devoid of adjectives or any hint of marketing hype.
On occasion, we have been known to apologise to media people for issuing releases from a client’s overseas HQ, which we are required to pitch unchanged. Who has the time or inclination to read a 200-word intro? In such cases, we email a precis to grab their attention.
Occasionally, we are obliged to ease certain clients carefully into the real world of media expectations. ‘So, why isn’t the fascinating story about version 2.xyz of our software on national TV?’ Well…
All this encompasses the value that good PR can bring to the media. Consider a ghastly alternative world in which PR does not exist! Pre Fin Review, I was press-ganged into becoming business editor of an NZ Sunday paper. New Zealand had about three decent PR agencies at the time, and starting from scratch without contacts, I suffered in an acute information vacuum. What the hell to write!
In contrast, today’s media receive an avalanche of material – good, bad and indifferent. PR acts as a filter between client and media, and the best agencies invest expertise and effort in ensuring that writers receive information they actually find useful.
Imagine what life on the news desk would be like without that filter. A constant deluge of calls and emails from managers, marketing, communications and salespeople. A life of ceaseless, remorseless spam and jangling phones!
So, in an ICT industry bursting with innovation and new ideas, being perceived as a reliable source of information is critically important in developing trust. A good agency will apply our principles of short, sharp copy-writing across the entire communications spectrum. Disciplined writing is just as effective for social media, lead generation, advertising, presentations, speeches, and more.
In a world where native advertising is growing, people are switching off online ads by using ad blockers, so content continues to grow in importance. A company’s ‘brand narrative’ simply isn’t sufficient. A vendor and its agency need to work expertise and knowledge into all the messaging they produce, which calls for professional writing skills and editorial experience.
Thus, outsourcing to an agency with a deep understanding of the evolving media landscape leaves a company free to focus on what they do best rather than keeping pace with publishing industry.
Good PR will leverage a client’s existing information. White papers, product briefs, brochures, blogs, and more offer a wealth of opportunity for sniffing out newsworthy items. In this way, we garner feature material, or thought leadership as it’s called these days, that is proving useful to the ICT media.
Thus, PR agencies are helping journalists to delve deeper into the mysteries of emerging technology such as object-defined storage, machine learning, SD-WANs, programmatic marketing, big data, business intelligence, and predictive analytics.