STUDY: Journalists Need PR Now More Than Ever

happy journalist

Not this guy, though. He’s fictional.

Encouraging headline, no? This new paper comes from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford, UK, and we have so many mixed feelings about it right now.

Everyone knows that the PR-to-journalist ratio grows more lopsided by the day, but this study’s findings confirm that the power shift goes deeper than that.

In short, “hacks” need “flacks” more and more whether they want to admit it or not. The reverse isn’t really true, though, so the dude in the image above might want to pour himself another stiff one…

Here’s the link to the full paper, released last week. It’s basically a history of modern PR leading to a present day in which the “every organization is a media organization” maxim rings truer each time we hear it.

Things we already knew: social media and self-publishing tools have left a greater degree of responsibility for the telling of a given client’s story in PR’s hands, and journalists at major publications have less power to “shape the narrative” than ever before because they no longer control the primary distribution channels. That very boom in “transparency” has led to an erosion of the trust that the public places in organizations of all shapes and sizes.

This shift is especially noticeable in American politics, as illustrated by Clinton advisor Mark Penn’s stint atop Burson-Marsteller; we’ll let you decide whether that’s a good thing. Unfortunately, the paper doesn’t include much in the way of numbers, but its basic point can be illustrated by a quick glance at newspaper and cable TV subscription trends. Here’s a great quote:

“If journalism is ‘the first draft of history’ then public relations is the first draft’s first draft.”

…and another one from Alastair Campbell, former head of comms for Tony Blair:

“There has always been communications. There has always been public affairs. There has always been PR. There has always been spin. Read the Bible for heaven’s sake.”

We’ll take his Word for it.