One of two introductory fact sheets on Public
Essentially, in their media relations role, public relations
consultants act as a conduit between people who have a mass-media
story to tell and those who will publish their story.
Why not leave it to the journalists to make the connection
themselves? The reality is that as newsrooms become steadily
leaner in staff numbers and less inclined to sift through all
of the mass of information clogging their inlets, the news industry
has come to rely on good public relations material to make its
PR makes the connection, frankly, by interpreting its clients'
stories in a way that fits them for the hybrid and demanding
tastes of the mass media. A story that might not otherwise catch
the attention of busy journalists thus presents on its merits
in their terms. It comes to them in a way that appeals to their
I use 'hybrid' for want of a better term to highlight the
fact that media people have a particular way of judging and presenting
information that often seems far removed from the way the rest
of us do it. Their test for running a sentence in the printed
page or over the air is basically, will these words grab and
hold the attention of the broadest possible range of people for
the required time?
PR professionals know that for a campaign for editorial coverage
to succeed, it must be soundly based on the truth and must have
substance and depth. It is this "clean hands" ethic
that makes the PR consultant most valuable to clients: they test
the story and the messages for truth and substance before presenting
them to their journalist contacts.
And if they slip up in doing so, or if the client goes ahead
regardless of the consultant's advice, there is a great risk
of the campaign turning against the client and damaging them
and their industry. Because journalists were never fools and
have an unerring eye for something that does not add up.
It is its close relationship with the news media that distinguishes
the public relations industry from advertising, marketing and
entertainment. To us there is no problem of definition, but understandably
to new clients and to members of the public these boundaries
are somewhat shadowy.
This is not helped by the fact the PR people are often engaged
to represent advertisers and their clients, marketing companies
and their clients, and entertainers! But that is because we are
the professionals in mass exchange of ideas through editorial
And we are not talking here only about corporate clients with
big promotional budgets. The same is true of community and non-profit
organisations or even individuals that need help in making their
This relationship between a client needing public exposure,
the public relations adviser who knows how best to get it, and
the journalist or editor with little or no time to find the story
themselves, is not very different from the legal system where
lawyers contribute to the administration of justice by providing
a service that in helping the client also helps the courts.
Jim Payne <email> email@example.com