Editorial: Don't view the media as your natural foes

An interesting survey this week suggests that CEOs of the UK's FTSE companies are relying on their senior PR staff to 'protect' them from 'ill-informed and aggressive financial journalists' (see p16). This emerges in the same week that BP's media agency, Mindshare, issued a missive to publishers demanding to be informed when they planned to cover oil industry issues, and threatening to pull advertising if they don't like the coverage.

Both these stories display a decidedly confrontational approach to media relations and suggest an undeveloped understanding of editorial by many large corporations. It is dangerous when corporate spokespeople begin to view journalists as the enemy, because they are certainly not going to go away. They are also unlikely to treat these corporations any better in the light of the policies outlined above.

It is also misguided because the media sphere is rather more fluid than these scenarios suggest. Many corporate comms heads are former journalists and in recent years there is growing evidence of career moves in the opposite direction. Equally, all should be aware of the synergistic nature of business, PR and editorial.

Personal experience does not support the assumption that financial journalists are inherently aggressive or ill-informed. Of course they are under growing pressure due to some unenlightened proprietors, but like most corporate comms staff, these journalists are largely trying to do the best job within tight deadlines.

It is encouraging then that the survey also reveals that CEOs are making more effort to be accessible and helpful to the media. This is clearly because the highest achievers in the UK recognise that this 'us against them' approach is counter-productive in the extreme.

One can understand why media relations chiefs might want to talk up the 'guardian' element of their roles, but let them not forget their responsibility to encourage openness and mutual trust between their corporations and the outside world.

danny.rogers@haynet.com.

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