Opinion: At the end of the day, I'm proud to be in PR

I have enjoyed standing in for Kate Nicholas, PRWeek's editor-in-chief, who returns to this slot from next week. I have also enjoyed impersonating a journalist, something every PRO should get to do from time to time. I have moaned for years about media inaccuracy and often with good reason.

I can say with certainty that of all the column inches I have generated for clients over the years, something is always lost in translation from the PR briefing to the final page. This isn't because of the laudable right of journalists to interpret information (anything else is plain advertising), but because of sheer, avoidable, un-fact-checked error on their part.

Now I think I have picked up some insight into how mistakes happen. Despite having a week to prepare a column and an open field about which to write, it's always something of a rush in the end. I agree a topic with the editor and then realise that I'd need to do a good couple of hours' worth of research to fully substantiate every point I'm making - or to illustrate them at least.

Did I spend such time on such detail? Reader, as you may have noticed, I'm afraid I did not. Having praised the comment media in last week's column, I'd like to damn with faint praise of my own. Because opinion is just that, a viewpoint. I don't (God forbid) want to echo the PM in saying it's all about belief, even if it's the wrong belief, but he has something of a point.

Journalists no longer have to be right, as long as they write about things in a way that keeps the punters coming, or is in keeping with the spirit of the publication for which they write. (I talk about journalists, by the way, as if everyone is in print but, of course, I mean broadcasters and bloggers equally).

Then there is the PR input into journalism. I realise with a stab of guilt that I have resisted the few attempts to induce me to write about things in PRWeek! As a large part of my daily grind is to persuade media to cover stories I generate or represent for clients, shouldn't I have leapt to practice what I preach? Yet I found myself reluctant to preach on behalf of others practising PR just like I do.

What do I conclude from the experience? That the PR field remains fascinating, relevant, good to write about, and misunderstood. Fickle though I may be as a journalist, I remain, first and foremost, a PR person - and proud of it, and pleased to write about PR, at least from time to time.

Julia Hobsbawm is professor of public relations at the London College of Communication. Kate Nicholas returns next week.

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