Are there any “digital natives” in public relations?

I’m not surprised to see public relations students in the US are unfamiliar with the world of Web 2.0 – as it reflects my own experiences in the UK.  So, is it a myth that those under the age of 25 are naturally conversant with the world of online social media?  They are definitely familiar with computer games and mobile telephones, but beyond being able to Google, I’ve found little understanding, even of blogs, among most young PRs.

Mind you, I’ve been informed twice this week that the media increasingly want press releases sent by post to avoid spam emails. 

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Heather Yaxley

Heather Yaxley is passionate about PR - teaching the CIPR qualifications, lecturing part-time at Bournemouth University and running the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA). I'm undertaking a PhD looking at Career Strategies in PR. I love sharing ideas and knowledge - connecting news and views by blogging on public relations and educational developments, especially relating to accelerated and active learning. I'm also a published author, qualified trainer and experienced consultant.

4 thoughts on “Are there any “digital natives” in public relations?”

  1. Your last paragraph is very interesting. I heard this week that a major company had taken a decision to stop sending out press releases as was going to rely on its web for communications, it was also going to stop using agencies. Your comment also indicates why press officers should make follow-up calls, I always do and 9 times out of 10 have to re-issue them.

  2. Totally digital PR is something we’ve debated in the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA) and even considered a date when everyone would stop paper releases – but it was felt there are too many luddites yet to go that far.

    Regarding follow up calls – my view is that if press officers have the time to speak to a journalist, the call would be better spent in selling in the story rather than phoning to check whether a release has been received. From my experience, media really dislike the “have you got my release” call which is normally done by an inexperienced PR who is then developing an initial impression as annyoing rather than helpful.

    Personally, I hope the days of the press release are numbered as it is a lazy and largely ineffective way of achieving a result. I advocate targeting, personalising and building positive relationships with journalists – and a good reputation for yourself as a valuable PR contact.

  3. This is an interesting discussion. I’ve found the same as you re digital natives. But my comment relates to the unloved news release. I think there are some compelling arguments for its continued use:
    1. The requirement to write the news in one short paragraph is a good discipline – it’s essential to have thought the story through before phoning a journalist. So even if the news release isn’t used, it’s served its purpose.
    2. Ironically, it’s more transparent to publish a news release for all to see (and to compare with the resulting news articles) than to conduct all media relations through private and unverifiable conversations.
    3. It meets legal disclosure requirements for listed companies.

  4. All really valid arguments – my objection is primarily with the blanket distribution of primarily poor press releases that still follow the traditional Ivy Lee format, but are now spam email rather than junk by post, backed by the fluffy follow-up “did you get the release” call.

    I agree you do need to have a written key para (plus also more information available – eg fact files, case studies, quotes), but this can be done for inclusion on websites, to email, in a corporate blog etc.

    As such, I feel we can be even more transparent by publishing publically online rather than distributing news to a select list. (I’m shocked at how rarely you can find the story on an organisation’s website despite it being in the news media). This also meets the legal disclosure requirements.

    I do feel we need to encourage PR practitioners to target better and also engage more directly with contacts to build relationships. Most stories are not of the critical news variety that require a rigorous paper trail, and as such, talking with journalists is a good way to understand better their needs and obtain quality coverage from selling in an idea. I believe it is what separates out the real masters of media relations from the millions of paper pushers.

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