BusinessCar highlights PR’s digital challenge

image Looking at the new BusinessCar Digital Magazine, it is clear that publications are increasingly about brand management rather than information distribution.

This is particularly true for business-to-business titles, where a loyal market of readers exists.  These readers aren’t just interested in reading the latest news, but will be making purchasing or other decisions as a result. 

With such active participants, there is more opportunity for interaction and maximising pull rather than just push aspects of online (and offline) contact.

What does this mean for PR practitioners – and journalists?  Well, clearly neither should just focus on transmitting or reporting “news” information when there are many other opportunities for influencing the behaviour of, and engage with, “readers” (if we can call them that).

image“Journalists” need to deliver added value beyond reporting news or providing feature articles.  That might mean, as the contents list of the BusinessCar website shows, authoring blogs, providing analysis, offering useful tools or insight into issues, such as the upcoming corporate manslaughter bill.  

Greater “reader” engagement with a media brand also offers opportunities for PR practitioners.  But this means shifting the perspective away from simply writing press releases or using other tools, such as car launches, to generate “coverage”. 

It will also increasingly involve closer integration with marketing colleagues as the media brands no longer separate out “advertising” into something that is entirely distinct from editorial.

There are lots of opportunities for business partnerships on both sides – but with PR’s traditional perspective of working only with journalists to generate “free coverage” head on, practitioners might feel such extension is the role of marketing.

As journalists get closer to their readers, the PR world can no longer see its role as working exclusively with the gate-keeper.  If it does, then journalists will increasingly have more in common with marketing colleagues, who traditionally interface with consumers. 

Where does that leave PR’s supposed USP in terms of media relations skills? 

On the one hand, more PR practitioners need to realise that the P stands for public not press relations – so understanding the psychology of active publics and their influence on our organisations is essential. 

On the other hand, we need to adapt with the press themselves and ensure our expertise remains focused on their changing needs – which also means a wider, business-perspective, particularly online.

The digital challenge presented to PR practitioners is about much more than generating online coverage or engaging in social media as Brendan Hodgson also highlights (link via Judy Gombita).  It offers a real opportunity for PR to demonstrate its business relevance – if it isn’t to become increasingly irrelevant to journalists as well as organisations themselves.

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Heather Yaxley PhD

Dr. Heather Yaxley is passionate about sustainable careers, reflective practice and professional development. I am a rhizomatic educator, practitioner, consultant, academic and scholar. As a qualified academic, I teach the CIPR professional qualifications with PR Academy and have experience teaching at various Universities. I run the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA) and my own strategic consultancy. I was awarded by PhD researching Career Strategies in Public Relations by Bournemouth University in 2017. I'm a published author, with books, chapters and academic papers to my name.

2 thoughts on “BusinessCar highlights PR’s digital challenge”

  1. As a former journalist, and current owner of a public relations firm, I am concerned about this trend. It is starting to almost smack of the European pay-for-play model. In other words, buy an ad in my publication and we will do a nice story about you.

    If the public becomes cynical about a publication, our efforts will be defeated. We need credible, independent publications that care about reporting, not marketing.

  2. Jeff – you are right about the impact on credibility, but it should still be possible for publications and organisations to work together on more than simply reporting information.

    Also, I’m not sure if PR and journalism will survive long term if both simply focus on producing copy. I’m not advocating pay for play, but as much as I might like to think strong, independent editorial is at the heart of any publication’s reputation, are the public willing to pay enough for this?

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