Conference PR & the Media: The changing face of media

PRWeek's PR & The Media event explored the impact of social media on journalists, the news cycle and pitching effectively. Kate Magee reports.

Barclays CEO Bob Diamond resigns
Barclays CEO Bob Diamond resigns

The day Barclays' CEO Bob Diamond resigned was one of the biggest news days of 2012. It was also the day of PRWeek's annual PR &The Media conference. Senior journalists including Sky News' associate editor John McAndrew and ITV's editor web development Jason Mills spoke about Barclays and how delegates should interact with the media.

SOCIAL MEDIA - BRAVE NEW WORLD

Jason Mills, ITV

ITV News' editor, web development Jason Mills talked about social media's profound effect on the way journalists gather and disseminate news: 'When social media started out, it was a thing in the corner; now it's an essential part of a journalist's toolkit.'

London Evening Standard, i, The Independent and The Independent on Sunday managing editor Doug Wills agreed. He explained how the Evening Standard publisher announced the paper's new editor on Twitter, which was news even to the new employee. 'People used to be "sacked by text"; now people are "appointed on Twitter",' he joked.

He believes this has helped to break down the old silos. 'The big change is the amalgamation of staff among papers, online and social media. It's now publishing, not print. Journalists need to be able to tweet a story, upload a web version and write it for print,' he said.

He also argued that the media have become more commercially driven: 'Five to ten years ago, it was 100 per cent journalism. Now it's 100 per cent journalism if we can afford it.'

PITCHING 'STOP THE PUNISHMENT CYCLE' - Rod McKenzie, Editor, BBC Radio 1 Newsbeat and 1 Xtra News

Rod McKenzie, BBC

McKenzie told the audience about a recent irrelevant telephone pitch that his team received. The PRO phoned three times in one day trying to sell in the story, despite being told it did not work for the station's audience.

'Why can't PRs get their heads around the basics? Know who you're pitching to, what your message is and how it is going to work for the audience,' he said.

'It feels like there's a punishment cycle. The office junior is forced to ring up and talk non-stop for 90 seconds trying to sell the story. If you're taking a long time to explain something, it's either not a good story, or you haven't thought about it enough,' he said.

'It's wrong-headed of the boss who made the work experience girl do this - it's a waste of time. I'm sure the idea was perfect for someone, but not for us. Also, don't ring just as we're about to go on air, it's just dumb,' he added.

He said a well targeted email could be useful, but urged PR professionals to get to the point. 'As you're selling to a news organisation, use news language - what is the top line? Who am I going to hear from? Why is it important for my audience?,' he suggested.

BREAKING NEWS - SEIZE THE OPPORTUNITY - John McAndrew, Associate editor, Sky News

John McAndrew, Sky News

The conference took place on the day Barclays' CEO Bob Diamond resigned. McAndrew said that at 7.30am that day, the channel was leading on the recall of children's drink Robinsons Fruit Shoot due to a safety concern with its packaging.

'By 7.35am, Bob Diamond had gone. We were sending everyone we could down to Canary Wharf. We got Jeff Randall up to go down there too,' he said. The news team began focusing on different angles to move the story on, including: What's the relationship between Barclays and the Bank of England? How does the public feel about bankers now?

He said these major stories were good opportunities for PR professionals to get their client interviewed on the channel if they could explain an issue succinctly and clearly to an audience. 'We will have wall-to-wall banking coverage today and we need people who know what they're talking about on air. We require interviews and expertise,' he said.

But any pitches need to be targeted. He suggested writing a short email to the relevant journalist, making mention of the news 'in light of Bob's resignation' and then explaining what the proposed spokesperson can offer. 'If you send reams of text, it just won't be read,' he said.

PROs should also not forget the supplementary content for iPad and mobile apps. 'I commission as much material for iPad as for TV,' he said.

TWITTER GOLDEN RULES - Neil Midgley, Media writer, The Daily Telegraph

Neil Midgley, Daily Telegraph

Things PR professionals should know about Twitter

- I follow PROs on Twitter who are in my sphere, but I don't pay much attention to them. Their opinions are worthless because they have been paid to have them. Facts can be more useful. A company's executives, however, are interesting to me.

- Twitter is something I can use as a journalist to beat people with. I've used it to carefully release half of a story to force the BBC to talk to me about something in private.

- Remember Twitter is like the pub for journalists. They are not just on there for work: they are on it as people. Journalists will use Twitter as a steam release valve. We will josh and banter with our friends. If a PRO jumps into that with a po-faced corporate line, it's extremely irritating.

THE DAY IN TWITTER

@adamdriver85 @prweekukevents good discussions at #prwmedia

@TheJaffacake Sounds like @rjdmc has had some right howler PR pitches: 'Calling me 2 minutes before a broadcast is never a good sign.' #PRWMedia

@TheJaffacake 20% of ITV's web traffic comes from social referrals FB, Twitter etc. A news outlet without a social presence is missing out. #PRWMedia

@johnlucius Off to speak at #PRWMedia about reacting to major news stories. Good day for it; two hours ago we were leading on Fruit Shoots.

@jasonmillsitv Off to speak at #PRWMedia on how journos are using social media. Any thoughts twitter?

@Link_Kat Ready to catch my train to go to #PRWMedia in London to find out how traditional media is engaging more with social.

THE BLOG WORLD - Carla Buzasi, Editor-in-chief, AOL Europe and The Huffington Post

Carla Buzasi, Huffington Post

Buzasi said a key difference between her site and more traditional media was she was happy to link to external sites and direct visitors to rivals: 'Traditional media only want people to stay on their website, but we will link to others because we think if we do that well, they'll come back to us first.'

To determine a blogger's influence, Buzasi advised PROs to forget readership figures, which can be inflated, and instead ask is the writing good? Is it interesting? Do my friends/colleagues/target audience read it?

She also said she believed video blogging would become more prevalent. 'I have a commitment to my bosses that I will have video on 70 per cent of the pages by the end of this year,' she said.

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