PR lessons from a tabloid editor

A recent speech by Daily Mail editor in chief Paul Dacre received widespread coverage for its call to turn back the growing tide of privacy law in the UK.

Ian Monk

That in itself is of huge significance to many PROs involved in reputation management work. The best interests of some clients are served precisely by the growing legal presumptions of privacy that Dacre opposes in the name of press freedom. His thunderous opposition demonstrates exactly how great is the will of the newspaper industry to fight for what it sees as fundamental democratic freedoms, including those to expose private lives.

But other largely unreported sections of the speech also raised issues pivotal to the PR industry. Ironically, an integral part of Dacre's titanic journalistic credentials is an innate suspicion of what he sees as the mendacity of much of our profession. It is unlikely he embarked on his speech with the intention of passing on helpful insights to PROs. And yet anyone who reads the full text (available on Media Guardian) should draw lessons from his observations.

The section dealing with what Dacre sees as the inevitable shrinking of the print media should focus PR thinking. As pagination dwindles, so too will the endless soft features and easy interview opportunities that are the staple of much PR delivery. Inevitably there will fewer opportunities to create coverage around bland and self-serving surveys.

PROs should reflect on this and begin to strive for the heightened creativity that will be needed to deliver future coverage. Equally, they should ponder Dacre's strident warning about the dangers inherent in the untrammelled growth of the BBC. He warns of it becoming an increasingly monopolistic supplier of news, both nationally and locally. This, he believes, poses a seminal threat to diversity and consumer choice across print, broadcast and online.

Again, this is a trend with serious implications for the future ability of PROs to deliver a spread of branded editorial coverage. Indeed, Dacre's speech carries crucial lessons for us all.

- Ian Monk is founder of Ian Monk Associates and a former executive at the Daily Mail and The Sun.

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