On April 27, Bloomberg published a piece titled “Public Relations Jobs Boom as Buffet Sees Newspapers Dying” that I thought missed the mark.
As the article noted, billionaire investor Warren Buffet sees the traditional newspaper slipping away. We all do, but it’s wrong to link the entire change in the media industry to the PR profession.
The truth is that the shrinking of newsrooms has less to do with the ascendance of public relations and more to do with the decentralization of media in an age where editors and publishers compete in the internet’s be-the-first-to-post race.
We can’t lose sight of the fact that reporters are still a resource offering stories that are extensively researched and fact-checked to ensure accuracy and accountability, which is exactly what PR professionals and the world need.
With media organizations consolidating across the country and former journalists finding themselves in a PR or corporate communications position, it’s important not to forget the difference between these two roles. We, as PR pros, offer different things. And in an ideal world, journalism and public relations have a balanced relationship benefitting both parties.
Power in the partnership between PR practitioners, those who craft stories and pitch ideas, and journalists, those who cover the world’s news through fair and truthful content, is the key to success and the only way to counteract inaccurate or misleading news.
While publicists need journalists for third-party validation and exposure in editorial form — which can show clients as credible thought leaders while increasing brand awareness and trust — journalists need PR agencies and comms teams to provide ideas that will resonate with their audience in relevant and meaningful stories. The fall of one isn’t good for the other. As PR jobs increase and journalism employment falls, we need to figure out a way to reinvest in journalism, and fast.
It is critical to rededicate our energy, attention and resources to journalists who cover the newsworthy moments in our lives. As PR professionals, we can write about how wonderful a client is and that work can be published and repurposed. But this, at the end of the day, is just promotion and advertising. The power of editorial content should not be underestimated.
In today’s fast-moving news cycle and at a time when every person with a smartphone and social media account is a self-deputized journalist, the role of the press providing credible information is more important than ever, especially for PR professionals.
Instead of talking about the demise of American media, we need to shift the conversation to how we can better invest in the publications and companies who have been in our communities for years — the papers, magazines and periodicals that bear the names of our towns and sponsor community events, host panel conversations and champion philanthropy.
It’s imperative that public relations and journalism remain equal and accountable. It’s time to pivot. Evolve. Move forward. Look for new ways to enhance newsrooms instead of shrinking them. Put money and time into supporting journalists.
And the time to act is now.
Nicholas E. Adams is a PRSA member and president of PR agency NINICO Communications with offices in San Jose, Calif., and Los Angeles.