Alec Mattinson: Media exodus is a double-edged sword

Another week and another senior journalist joins the growing talent pool fleeing traditional media to climb aboard the PR lifeboat.

Alec Mattinson: Media exodus is a double-edged sword
Alec Mattinson: Media exodus is a double-edged sword

Daily Mirror business stalwart Clinton Manning is following a well-worn path by moving into City PR, but it is a road becoming so well travelled there is danger of a stampede.

One former journalist, now senior in-house practitioner, talked this week of the 'handfuls' of business cards ex-colleagues are thrusting into his palm at industry events - immensely talented journalists who have simply had enough of the pressures of the modern media industry.

Journalists are far from the only workers tasked with doing more for less, but the potential financial rewards on offer in the comms industry inevitably become increasingly compelling in an era of media cutbacks, redundancies and regulatory crackdowns.

The availability of this rich seam of talent shifts the balance of power yet further towards PR as an industry, but on a deeper level the trend is a double-edged sword.

Yes, the under-resourcing of media titles means agencies and in-house teams have more chance to place stories and content with overworked journalists.

But it seems an alarmingly short-termist view to suggest a humbling of the UK media is something to be welcomed by an industry that has benefitted so much from the power of these media brands.

The UK has become an undisputed global centre of comms expertise, but this position owes a great deal to London's reputation as the global media capital. If the power and influence of the UK media diminishes, does not the argument hold that the UK comms industry also takes a hit to its own global standing and claims of influence?

What is becoming clear is that those agencies whose offering still centres on media relations and press cuttings will struggle in this new marketplace.

This influx of talent has also helped the power and seniority of in-house teams grow to an extent where few now require old-school media relations programmes and instead demand unprecedented levels of senior counsel, expertise and service.

This leaves agencies facing the twin problem of providing clients with genuine added value, while battling to hold on to and recruit their own senior talent against increasingly attractive in-house roles.

Those agencies that have genuinely managed to expand the breadth and depth of their expertise despite the tighter margins in the past three years now stand to reap the rewards.

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