OPINION: Journalists are working across multiple channels – are you?

Brands2Life’s head of new media says PR practitioners need to catch up with the way news is generated and reported.

As a rugby fan, I was relieved when a media boycott of last month’s World Cup was averted at the 11th hour. The dispute arose when Rugby Union’s governing body imposed a limit on newspapers and newswires of 40 pictures a match, and the use of only three minutes of ‘locker room’ video online.

Similar confrontations are likely to arise again as broadcasters seek to protect their investments.

But the incident demonstrates just how far the way in which news is gathered and reported has changed in the digital age – the internet is blurring the lines between broadcast, print and online journalism.

A Brands2Life survey of UK-based journalists released this week reinforced this fact. It showed the web is no longer regarded as the poor cousin of ‘traditional’ media. Online video, in
particular, has made a huge impact – despite only two per cent of respondents being traditional broadcasters, 66 per cent said they included video on their websites.

The knock-on effect for journalists is that they are expected to operate as multi-channel reporters, filing print and online stories, updating blogs – often personal as well as official – and recording podcasts. The consequence is that they are working longer and have less time to source stories.

There are three ways in which PROs must respond. First, we must value online media coverage much more highly. Too many PR people regard traditional print or broadcast coverage as the most important focus for campaigns, but The Sun Online, for example, has an audience three times larger than the print newspaper.

Meanwhile, PROs should think, like journalists, in a multi-channel way. It is no longer just broadcasters that want powerful video content. We need to question old adages such as ‘never send picture stories to radio newsdesks’. Most radio stations now welcome such content to help bring their websites alive. The adoption of social media news releases should help here.

Finally, it is clear that the internet is an important source of stories for busy journalists, with 44 per cent saying they get stories from blogs. PR people need to take the medium more seriously by writing their own blogs – assuming they have something interesting to say – or by nurturing relationships with prominent bloggers.

There are those in the industry who have already made great strides, but most have some way to go before the way they work reflects how the media are changing.

Gareth Thomas
(l) is head of Brands2Life’s new media division

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