Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Going straight to the sources for news

One of journalism's functions -- whether we journalists care to admit it or not -- is to funnel public-relations material to an audience. The best journalism operations apply their best editorial judgment to p.r. material. If it's not newsworthy, it's not published. And even worthwhile stuff is rewritten to remove jargon, p.r.-speak and over-the-top promotional material.
In the best newsrooms, public relations material is no more than a starting point for a reporter. A press release can provide story ideas, contact names and background info.
In the worst newsrooms, a press release is published verbatim by lazy or unethical journalists.
Understandably, public-relations executives would generally prefer that their material be unedited, while being surrounded on the written page by editorial copy. P.R. pros understand that such placement gives their copy the appearance of news produced by journalists.
So what happens when public-relations companies can produce their own news and use it to "surround" their marketing message? Last week, Purina did just that. And as I've said before, I expect to see a surge in B2B news produced by B2B news sources.
Today, Doc Searls points toward a news-filled blog that is written by Boeing engineers. As Doc points out, the blog is serving a p.r. function and doing it much better than a press release could. And an article in BusinessWeek says one of the more popular blogs in France is run by the head of French retail giant E. Leclerc. That blog is filled with copy about news topics such as inflation and government policy -- editorial copy that surrounds and "legitimizes" a public-relations message.
In a world where news sources can now be news publishers, traditional B2B publishers should be asking themselves how they can respond to such developments in the industries they serve.
And B2B journalists need to ask themselves -- and ask themselves honestly -- if they'll miss it when someday in the near future their in-boxes are no longer filled with press releases.

2 comments:

Phil Hall said...

Hey, Paul, I ran my own PR agency for 10 years and I always thrilled to see my press releases run verbatim with an author's byline smacked on top of this. And this was not just the "worst" newsrooms -- I recall at least one Neal Award-winning weekly that did that for me a lot. There is also very well known national columnist who routinely ran my PR pitches in the guise of original commentary. I've worked with other highly regarded daily newspapers that did that same, albeit not as prominently. Not that I complained -- my clients thought I was brilliant, although my brainpower came in knowing which lazybones to pick.

Paul Conley said...

Hi Phil,
I have no doubt that what you say is true. But it breaks my heart to hear it.