I tuned into episode two of the CBC Radio documentary, ‘Spin Cycles’, a six-part series focusing on the often uneasy relationship between journalism and PR. I wasn’t crazy about the show concept when I first heard about it. For one thing I had my doubts about whether public relations would be portrayed in a fair light. And something else: as a PR person I like to work quietly behind the scenes and all of a sudden my profession is being given centre stage. (OK, maybe a milk crate on a street corner is a more apt metaphor.)
But I was pleasantly surprised. In a segment that talked about video news releases (VNRs) and TV’s insatiable appetite to fill dead air, the producer said that both PR and media should come clean and identify the source material. I’m all for that. It’s time for both sides to stop hiding. It could be as simple as a super that says where a visual came from. Or maybe a reporter discloses that a quote is from a news release.
About five years ago I had an argument with a senior colleague over this very topic. When she contracted a third-party spokesperson to promote a brand, she believed the media pitch should be sent out on blank paper, rather than company letterhead. The spokesperson would then have to slip in a brand reference whenever they could. I disagreed. I’ve always felt that ethical PR people should say who we are and what we represent up front. Then, it’s up to us to tell the best story we can and either sell it or not.
I feel the same about anonymous blog postings. If you don’t have the guts to say who you are why should I be interested in reading or believing your snipe, swipe, gripe or tripe? Put away those fake (or nonexistent) IDs and expose yourself (…but maybe not like that).