A decade of change in PR land

It is 10 years since I moved from poacher to gamekeeper and I now realise how green I was, writes Phil Hall of PHA Media.

The landscape of both PR and journalism has changed dramatically in the past 10 years, writes Phil Hall
The landscape of both PR and journalism has changed dramatically in the past 10 years, writes Phil Hall
Journalists take a dim view of PRs 'protecting' their clients from the free press, but I now realise how necessary it is.

I used to think the more coverage I could achieve for a client the better, which I think is a fault many journos turned PRs have. 

The bigger picture, how it contributes to the overall strategy and the client’s goals was not on my radar 10 years ago.

The mass migration from Fleet Street to Flack Street has meant the two professions are closer to one another simply because of the longer-term relationships on both sides.

The increase in numbers has squeezed fees but also means the cream rises to the top – only the good will really flourish.

PR agencies have become far more sophisticated and innovative, I think because many are small businesses that have to be creative to survive.

What was called crisis management is now called reputation management and that is where growth has come from in my experience.

Libel actions are rare these days when a client is slandered. 

That is because it has become impossible to put the genie back in the bottle once it is all over digital media.

The digital audience has also become more aware… they no longer believe everything they read and they are selective over what is good and what is bad. 

We have seen an increase in industrial espionage through digital platform where business rivals will smear one another with false stories online, often using well respected outlets that allow outside contributions to their websites.

Another big change, which has sadly been the legacy of phone hacking, is the loss of investigative journalism, which is surely the most important aspect of journalism. 

The reality is investigations take time and money and in my experience one in 10 works out. 

With cutbacks in advertising revenue and as a consequence investment in journalism, that time and resource no longer exists.

The PR industry is under fire like never before from DIY PR… in other words Twitter, bloggers, Facebook, Google ads. 

But in my view the more the merrier. 

The bigger the market for reputation management, the more the components of that market will compete with each other and the more they will need PR professionals to advise and fight their corner.

Where will we be in 10 years’ time? It is impossible to say. 

If you had asked newspapers that a decade ago they would never have predicted the falling circulations they have endured. 

The truth is no one could predict the advent of the iPad or the progress of mobile technology.

The world is now more short-term and immediate and we must adapt constantly, but the future is not beyond next month, let alone 10 years’ time.

Phil Hall is chairman of PHA Media

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