Opinion: There is no shame in editorial alliances

The amusing media spat between GQ editor Dylan Jones and The Modern Review co-founder Cosmo Landesman - with the latter accusing the former of being unduly bedazzled by the PR industry - reopens the debate about the level of influence wielded by PR executives on editorial output.

Landesman claimed in the Sunday press last week that a clique of highly visible media celeb­rities, including Boris Johnson, Piers Morgan and Simon Kelner, is dedicated to ‘the ruthless pursuit of publicity for products and self-promotion for the people in the Jones camp'. Jones dismisses the attack as the bile of ‘an ageing hack spurned'. But just how healthy is the current relationship between PR and editorial?

The multi-faceted nature of mod­ern media means PROs have opportunities to infiltrate the editorial process. But as any competent media operator knows, the key is not a compliant editor seeking kudos or reward (as Landesman implies), but a smart PRO who understands an editor's need for an angle and who has the trust of his client to create one. The process involves editorial understanding and well-nurtured relationships.

The flow of ideas into today's media is no longer restricted to the editor's conference. Senior news­paper and magazine executives spend time nurturing PR contacts in the same way as the old-fashioned journalist used to cultivate police or ambulance sources. Hence savvy PR firms are recruiting from the higher echelons of the media to achieve real buy-in to editorial processes and thinking. Paid-for ads are starting to seem a costly and sometimes crude alternative.

At the recent London Press Ball, the great and good of the publishing world were joined by a dozen or so PROs, mostly invited by ­editors recognising the part played by our industry in content creation.

One magazine editor puts it thus: ‘We meet, exchange ideas and viewpoints, and talk about things that can work for both sides. I need to know what's happening in the outside world and PROs are an important source of this understanding. As long as we can trust you, your clients can generally trust us.'

Online content offers greater scope for PR input. Create clever and newsworthy content online,  then tip off broadcasters and print media that it's there. The result is cross-media coverage that hits target audiences with creative brand references. Count, in any one day, how many newspaper stories are deri­ved from life on the web, and ask who created them.

Editors such as Dylan Jones offer real opportunities for editorial input. It is a challenge to which the PR industry must continue to rise.

Ian Monk is founder of Ian Monk Associates and was formerly a senior newspaper executive at the Daily Mail and The Sun.

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