Tag Archives: PR

Video: Angry hack vs angry flack – a touching story

This one has been doing the rounds: a head-to-head between Dan Noyes, the chief investigative reporter for US news channel ABC7 News, and Marc Slavin, director of communications at a local hospital. Neither are willing to give any ground as Noyes holds on to his story and Slavin holds on to Noyes shoulder…

More background on the story behind the confrontation on sfweekly.com.

Video posted on YouTube at this link…

Call for responses to survey on PR ‘spamming’

In February a group of leading PR professionals launched a campaign asking for a new charter to protect journalists and bloggers from irrelevant PR campaigns and releases.

‘An Inconvenient PR Truth’ aims to reduce “the pollution of journalist, blogger and publisher inboxes” by cutting PR spam with a list of recommendations for the industry.

The initial suggestions by the group included a ‘Bill of Rights’ on the campaign’s website, includes obtaining permission from recipients before sending press releases and not making a follow-up call to a journalist after sending a release.

The group has now created a second survey building on the initial launch document and wants responses from journalists, writers, communication professionals and bloggers to ascertain more information about:

  • Who is most affected by the issue of unwanted PR and press releases?
  • What are the main sources of the problem?
  • What is the impact on media recipients, in terms of time wasted?

The short survey can be filled in at this link –  for more details contact Adam Parker.

Says the campaign site:

[T]he survey is only going to be of any value if we get lots of responses. To date any exercise (that we are aware of) that has tried to quantify and analyse this problem has been limited by the small number of respondents anyone has been able to achieve on their own. We hope that with the help of the PR and Media communities we can get a huge response so that the data can provide an accurate insight into the issue once and for all.

Heather Brooke: ‘PR is infecting public institutions and destroying our democracy’

In the latest extract of Heather Brooke’s book, ‘The Silent State’, published in the Mail on Sunday yesterday, the investigative journalist looks at the effect of PR in public institutions.

On council-run newspapers:

My prediction is this: the more officials take over the news the more our money will be wasted. Scrutiny by the public keeps the powerful honest.

And on trying to reach officials:

PR people have manoeuvred themselves to the top of the political pole. Even senior managers have to get clearance from the Press office to speak to the public.

Full post at this link…

Honouring embargoes

Perhaps a little frivolous to start a Monday morning with, but hey. Journalist to PR promoting new revolutionary social media software: “Yes, I’ll honour the embargo… for the rest of my working life.”

We understand that part 2 is on its way. Follow its creator tech journalist Steve O’Hear / @sohear for details. Strong language warning.

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PR without newspapers… gets newspaper coverage

Earlier this week we blogged about Adam Vincenzini, a PR consultant with Paratus Communications, who is conducting a personal experiment and giving up reading and buying print newspapers for a year.

Vincenzini, who describes himself as a news junkie and avid consumer of newspapers, wants to see what effect this withdrawal will have on him personally, but more significantly on his work.

His experiment has attracted a great deal of interest – not least from the very medium he’s giving up. Spanish newspaper El Mundo has picked up on the story and used one of his video updates. Vincenzini says the French press have also been in touch. Not that he’s really allowed to be reading them mind…

Giving up newspapers for a year – a PR’s experiment

PR consultant Adam Vincenzini is experimenting – starting from 1 January this year he has given up reading and buying newspapers for 365 days.

Vincenzini, who describes himself as a news junkie and avid consumer of newspapers, wants to see what effect this withdrawal will have on him personally, but more significantly on his work.

He sets out the ‘rules’ for his experiment on his blog, which he’ll be using to chronicle his 365 days without newspapers and explore new digital ways for delivering news. He also promises to use the blog to be more critical of digital devices, such as e-readers and digital editions, to offer advice for what print, online-only and multimedia news organisations could be doing better.

In 12 months time, I hope that I can say that every element of the media mix has its place (which, coincidentally, is where things are likely to end up anyway).

I hope that I can say that the acquisition of new/staying on top of current affairs is possible by adopting a purely digital existence, but that quality analysis, probing features and thought provoking campaigns are best delivered in print.

For week two, avoiding free newspapers on the London Underground has become a particular challenge:

You can follow the experiment via Vincenzini’s blog and we’ll be catching up with him later in the year to find out more about the effects on his work.

Comment: ‘I’m not surprised Kevin Braddock lost his patience with PR email’

In December 2009,  journalist Kevin Braddock named and shamed the PRs he felt were causing him most email grief. Following several complaints he changed the post and removed the email addresses originally published. Was the first post justifiable, or unreasonable reaction? Iain Fleming from messaging service Wirefast, who researched PR email for a postgraduate dissertation, explains why he appreciates Braddock’s frustration. [Read Fleming’s earlier post: ‘The problem with PR email’ at this link… ]

I am not in the least surprised that Kevin Braddock finally lost patience and ‘named and shamed’ those PROs who refused to remove him from their distribution lists. Going by the responses I received to my research project survey on the way content is delivered to the media by the PR sector, it is a huge problem and one that can be directly blamed on the over-reliance and misuse of e-mail as a delivery mechanism.

Unfortunately, there is no easy answer and it is a problem which is only going to get worse, as more companies enter the market and compete for business by boasting their email directory as the most comprehensive/up-to-date/relevant etc.

One of those who responded to my survey commented that:

“If I ruled the world I would ban these databases, or at least make it compulsory for them to ASK us first whether we wish to have our email addresses included or not. At present it is incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to be removed from these databases, which result in scores of unwanted emails every day. They are spammers, and there should be a law against them.”

Some of the other responses were in even stronger terms.

“The answer, of course, is for individual PROs to constantly ‘cleanse’ their lists as people move constantly in this business. I know that at least one of the email distribution companies phones newsdesks on a regular basis, but unfortunately this is often ‘at the wrong time’. It always ‘the wrong time’, and I have personally witnessed a harassed news editor answering these calls with ‘no change’ because he was too busy to explain the changes.”

The best way is to send through a secure and guaranteed delivery route such as a wire service, which delivers content in a ready-to-use plain text format directly into a newspaper or broadcaster’s editorial system. That costs money but it just doesn’t chime with today’s generation, brought up in the internet age where they expect everything for free. Even those PROs who have responsibilities under civil contingencies legislation to use a ‘robust’ form of communications – which email most certainly isn’t – don’t seem to know of any other way – or even worse – care!

[Disclaimer: I work for Newslink, the wire service set up in the late 80s and which, for a decade before the introduction of internet email, was the only way by which freelance journalists, news agencies, public sector bodies and Government agencies could file copy electronically. The service still concentrates on hard news and public sector/government press release distribution but also carries a small amount of commercial material, such as bookmaker odds stories. It does not specifically target the consumer PR market, as its main customers – news editors of the country’s national and regional media publishers and broadcasters – have clearly indicated their wish not to receive this type of material through their Newslink wire feed.]

#soe09: Audio – Trinity Mirror’s Neil Benson on newspapers as PR agencies

There was a mixed reaction (as you might expect from a room full of newspaper editors) to Trinity Mirror Regionals’ editorial director Neil Benson’s suggestion yesterday that newspaper groups could make money from running ‘arm’s length PR agencies’.

Journalism.co.uk spoke to Benson at the Society of Editors conference to find out more about the scheme in Northumberland (in which he refers to Brian Aitken, editor of the Journal) and the potential for newspaper groups to work with local authorities:

Below he explains why newspapers running PR agencies in-house could work:

Comment: The problem with PR email

As Journalism.co.uk reported earlier this year, former PR Manager and national newspaper journalist Iain Fleming decided to try and assess which PR distribution methods work and which don’t, by conducting a small survey as part of his CIPR (Chartered Institute of Public Relations Diploma) course at Queen Margaret University. He now works as the business development manager for Wirefast, which provides the Newslink story and picture wire service and is launching a new multimedia management, distribution and syndication service, called Tradeclips, on 19 November.

As the PR industry has grown – from being worth just over £106 million in 1986 to £6.5 billion in 2005 – so has the number of people working in it and inevitably producing material to send to the media. Back in 1985 fax machines were just coming in and were expensive to buy and run, and most material was still sent by post, so there was a direct financial link to distribution.

Jump forward 20 years and there has been a huge increase in media outlets. So most people in PR have to use some form of directory. If it costs an agency several thousand pounds per year to access an online database, but they are allowed to email as many addresses as they like free of charge through that database, then it is no wonder that content is literally being sprayed in a scattergun approach by many.

Now add in to the mix the growing adoption by publishers and broadcasters of websites linked to their traditional products and the need to use multimedia content, but source it for as little as possible – preferably for free from readers and viewers/listeners – and we now have a situation where an industry is rapidly shedding staff but expecting those who are left to take on more work and learn new techniques. It should also be noted that winnings from online gambling in the UK are not taxed. However, there are exceptions, for example, for professional players. In addition, although winnings are often not taxed, they still need to be declared to the tax office. Find all the details at https://www.newukcasino.co.uk/ . In short, there is no gambling tax as such in the UK. Only if gambling becomes a profession, so to speak, and the tax thus falls into another category, would tax actually have to be paid for it.

So it came as no surprise to me that the results of my small survey – including responses from 101 editors, section editors, journalists and IT managers – showed just how much those working on news desks disliked the PR industry – despite their growing reliance on it. So much of what is being thrown at them is completely irrelevant – if it gets to them at all.

What does get through – and 95 per cent reported problems with email of which around a quarter said it was ‘every day’ – is sent in ways which either crash their systems or can’t be opened because their employers simply cannot afford to upgrade software on 200 computers as regularly as a small PR agency of just a few people can – and does.

And that is just for ‘traditional’ text and pictures. The message that a national newspaper can happily use a picture – even across several columns – if it is only a few hundred Kb in size has not got through to the PR people, who keep sending out 10Mb files at a time.

Move on to ‘new’ media and the situation is even worse, with the same issues of incompatible file types, too large files, poor quality content and stuff that is ‘just not newsworthy’ topping the list of complaints. A senior manager within ITV told me just last week how one station struggled for several hours to get video sent by a fire brigade into a format suitable for broadcast, but ran out of time and the bulletin went out minus the footage.

This isn’t a rant about email – I don’t know how we managed to exist before it came along and I was an early adopter, although I can’t now remember my first Telecom Gold address back from 1984. It is ubiquitous and for many – probably most – people working in PR – it is all they know and is an appropriate method. It is a system which has mushroomed and in the space of five years moved from being a ‘nerdy’ plaything to universal acceptance and usage.

But there are many PR practitioners who don’t know of anything else but really should, for every day they are flying by the seat of their pants and taking an unnecessary risk, potentially with the lives of many others. They are the people working under civil contingencies legislation and have a responsibility to ‘warn and inform’ the public – they work for the ‘blue light’ services, the NHS, local authorities and the like. They are supposed to use what the legislation says is a ‘robust’ form of communication, and by no stretch of the imagination is e-mail ‘robust’.

The governments in both Westminster and Holyrood have been investing millions recently in new and secure networks and providing things like satellite phones to such organisations, and while their internal communications may be ‘secure and guaranteed’, these networks don’t  – and never will – extend to the media. There are ‘robust’ services out there – of which my employer Newslink is but one – but the basic understanding of effective communication methods beyond email, mobile phones and fax by even the most senior PR practitioners is simply not there.

I met the head of comms of a major public utility – in the news that day for an issue potentially affecting the health of hundreds of thousands of his customers – at an event in London earlier this month, and tried to discuss the issue with him. The best he could come up with was that ‘he was sure’ they used methods other than email, but could not tell me what they were, nor could he see the importance of being able to guarantee delivering messages affecting public safety. We are on the cusp of a possible swine or bird flu pandemic, but for all of the planning which has been done, how much of it assumes that warning messages will actually be able to be delivered?

I know and appreciate that media distribution is the ‘back end’ of a very creative process – but what is the point of writing the best press release in the world if it never gets there?

So I believe my project has some merit, and may be of value to others. I don’t claim it to be anything other than it is, a university project to which just over 100 editors and journalists contributed and by its very nature could be seen as partial, but I believe it does reflect what is happening in the industry just now.

Findings from Iain Fleming’s research:

  • Lack of targeting, sending large attachments – often in formats which the recipient cannot access – and making ‘follow-up’ calls were just some of the main complaints by the 101 editors, section editors, journalists and IT Managers who responded to the survey.
  • The project also reveals that the practice of making ‘follow-up’ calls by PR practitioners is intensely annoying and ultimately counter-productive, while the demands made on news desk staff by media distribution companies updating their databases are also heavily criticised by journalists.
  • While the media is encouraging user generated content from readers and viewers, much of the content – like that supplied by PR professionals – is unusable because it is sent in the wrong format, is technically unsuitable or is ‘simply not newsworthy’.
  • The research highlights that many public sector organisations with responsibilities under civil contingencies legislation to ‘warn and inform’ the public are relying on a communication method which is not ‘robust’ and not guaranteed to work in an emergency.
  • Due to the unreliability of email, a lot of material never gets there, and if it does, it can’t be opened. And if it can be opened, much of it is irrelevant and just wastes the time of the recipient.  Fifty-five per cent of respondents said that less than ten per cent of the material sent to them from the commercial sector was relevant and 83 per cent said they wanted less material. Only 10 per cent of respondents said they wanted more content from commercial PR operators.
  • While content from the public and non-commercial sectors (local authorities, NHS, charities etc) fared somewhat better, with 25 per cent saying they wanted more from such contributors, and 54 per cent saying they wanted less, this still indicates that a great deal of time and effort is going to waste.
  • The survey looked at the way such material is now delivered, and showed that 80 per cent is sent by e-mail and fax represents less than five per cent.
  • While email has become the dominant distribution method, the survey showed that almost 95 per cent of respondents had suffered problems with it, and almost one quarter reported this to be every day, with half reporting problems several times a week or weekly. This included delayed delivery or even outright failure of messages to arrive, corrupt characters or badly-formatted content, multiple copies and spam.

Is there life after a journalism course? The Coventry Class of 2009 – James Robinson

At the end of the academic year John Mair, senior lecturer in broadcasting at Coventry University, asked just what would happen to his undergraduate journalism class of 2009. In the face of the biggest media recession for many a generation where do they go? Is there life after a journalism course? A few months on, we are re-visiting the students.

James Robinson graduated this summer with a degree in journalism and media and is now pursuing a career in PR.

After graduating with a degree in journalism and media this summer, it quickly hit me that a career in ‘journalism’ wasn’t for me. A wasted three years? No. The skills I learnt have helped me embark on the career in PR and Comms that I wanted to pursue.

With the huge financial debt hovering over every recent graduate, the initial hunt is for a job that pays.  Well, this is not easy, especially in the economic downturn which is still causing havoc across all industries.

The searching is generally the easy bit. Trying to stand out on a piece of paper is really tough and doing enough to secure an interview is near on impossible. I boast an e-mail inbox that has 48 ‘thanks, but no thanks’ letters of reply.

It’s safe to say that it became a demoralising task. Knowing that you put in three years of hard work and then there is nothing for you to do after, was tough both emotionally and financially for me.

I then decided that the relevant work experience I had might not be sufficient for a permanent job in journalism. I then starting researching internships in PR. This proved more fruitful: companies suddenly began to notice me and actually invite me in to meet them. After searching, applying and the odd interview my dream opportunity in PR and Comms suddenly arrived.

In the space of two weeks, I applied, had an interview and was offered a position as communications assistant at the Dame Kelly Holmes Legacy Trust. This six month internship, already over a month in, has given me the opportunity to show the organisational skills I already obtained from my time at Coventry University.

My job, which I am thoroughly enjoying, consists of many PR and Comms tasks: writing press releases on different events that either the Trust or Dame Kelly have attended and ringing up journalists to ask them about a story or event we are holding and if they would like to come and write a feature.

Working for the Dame Kelly Holmes Legacy Trust has sent me all across country: Bognor Regis, Manchester, Portsmouth, Liverpool. And the list is growing.

My main project at the moment is organising the entire local and national PR for our Charity Runners who are running in the Great South Run in Portsmouth at the end of October. We have nine runners taking part and my job is to create local and national ‘buzz’ around them.

I think taking this internship was the perfect opportunity for me. I will gain experience in working for a high profile figure like Dame Kelly, learn valuable PR and Comms skills that will set me up, for what will hopefully be a rewarding career.

James Robinson can be contacted via kcr [at] dkhlegacytrust.org