It may be true that one profession would struggle to survive without the other but, while many PRs and journalists work together well, sadly the relationship can be characterised by misunderstanding, mistrust or even anger on both sides.
PRWeek decided to undertake a detailed investigation into hack-flack relations in the current media climate, surveying journalists and PRs over the course of a month to lift the lid on how both sides regard the relationship.
The areas we investigated included the basic competency of their professional counterparts, pay satisfaction, the capacity for drinking on the job and whether they could make a good fist of the other’s role.
Our online survey garnered 300 responses. See the second part of the feature below.
One in two journalists believes PRs have a difficult job to do
While reporters in newsrooms wilt under the various (and sometimes competing) demands of their news editors, sub-editors and editors, PRs are under pressure from their boss, the unreasonable expectations of clients and, of course, journalists and their endless questions.
But when journalists and PRs were asked whether they thought the other had a difficult job – as opposed to more difficult than theirs – it was the PRs who showed more appreciation of the hardship endured by their counterparts.
More than 80 per cent of them either strongly agreed, or agreed to a greater extent, that journalists have a tough gig, as opposed to the 52 per cent of journalists who said the same of PRs. However, in the comments PRs made about the difficulties of the job, it was clear that some felt traditional journalistic skill was not much in evidence among their contacts.
One said: "It should be, but not the way it is practiced by the majority of people I deal with. They cut and paste without asking questions or testing the veracity of what they’ve been told."
Journalists also had their doubts about the hardships endured by PRs. One wrote: "I believe it is as difficult as being a journalist, but it doesn’t come with the same responsibility." Another appreciated that the hardest job for PRs was probably "having to deal with bastard journos like me".
And one journalist reserved a special place in hell for government spokespeople, saying: "I blame the employers who give them their job description and train them to be obstructive and disingenuous. The UK government is one of the worst offenders for this."
On both sides, perhaps understandably, it was those who had crossed the fence in either direction who were the most appreciative of the difficulties faced by the other profession.
One PR-turned-journalist said: "I have previously worked as a communications officer so I know the difficulties they face."
As for whether journalists and PRs would be good at each other’s job, both professions displayed a confidence – bordering on arrogance – that, given half a chance, they could ace it.
Nearly two thirds of journalists said that they would either definitely or probably make a good PR professional, while the same proportion of PRs believed they would be effective journalists.
Of the more modest journalists, 30 per cent said they probably or definitely would not be good at PR; a similar level of response to their counterparts. "I find it difficult to lie," wrote one journalist, while one hack-turned-flack commented: "I was a great journo."
Look out for further revelations from the 'Hacks vs Flacks' survey this week, including job satisfaction on both sides of the fence and what they really think of each other.