Blurring the Lines Between PR and Reporting

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plagiarismThis is about an astounding PR story. It’s not astounding because of the questionable ethics being attributed to Jan Hutchins, in his seemingly shameless pitch to provide complete stories to the media. It’s actually astounding that anybody should even be surprised by this offer – given how much copy/pasted journalism is already put into print, on a regular basis!

” I write the stories, you put your byline on them ”

Do journalists object to the tacit presumption (in this “pitch”) that they will copy/paste content in whole, rather than only in part from newswire and agency materials?

How many times, do we see large sections of copy, and even entire stories, reiterated in various media outlets online (verbatim!) before the public simply begins to presume that the mainstream media has largely become a re-distribution channel for more centralised sources of news and info?

In short, should anybody be surprised that a publicist could start to presume that some ‘journalists’/editors’ are just looking for prefab material to paste into their publications? Is the difference between a newswire story and a PR release really so different? What precisely is  the acceptable ratio of copied copy, to original content? More importantly, how much of that original content needs to be substantive information, rather than just some stylistic window-dressing or editorial slant, written as an aside to the main body of pre-fab information?

Which reminds me…What other REAL reasons are there for the ‘professional courtesy’ of providing copy that follows standard media styleguides – other than to enable the ease of a prevailing ‘copy/paste’ style of journalism?

I can understand how typos and bad writing are a deterrent to productive workflow, but can’t a writer/editor understand what something like 10%, or 10AM means (and apply it accordingly into their work), without crying foul on the grounds of some verbose and exclusionary styleguide (which has yet to show any ability in adapting to the realities of socialmedia, I might add)?

Nevermind…That’s another subject for another day.

For now, let’s not throw rocks too hard inside of the glass towers, and just say that clear and honest attribution of (safe) sources should be where we start most ethical debates around journalistic principals….One would think.

PR man’s ‘jaw-dropping’ offer to reporter: I write the stories, you put your byline on them | JIMROMENESKO.COM.



PR: Public Perceptions?

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The acronym “PR” is now a popular term, but does anybody wonder if the general public knows what it actually means?

Unfortunately, the public notoriety of this acronym is based on merely a handful of the PR industry’s many other services. The now widely perceived reputation of PR also indicates that the Public has been actively scrutinizing anything that can be construed to be ‘Public Relations’ as well, and propagating negative examples that extend the reach of these memes.

So even without a clear understanding of what PR actually is, the public is now willing to form quick opinions that are often less than complimentary, often based on only the most inflammatory examples. This suggests that an entire industry that prides itself on shaping public perceptions might actually be in dire need of doing some serious some public relations work upon itself! Lest it entirely lose control of it’s own perceived identity, and disappear deep into the corporate and government structures that it serves. Retreating from a public visibility that has been progressively exposed, one brand at a time.

PR Spin

Historically, “media spin” and manufactured “events” seemed to have been the most recognizable traits of PR. What should now be of greater interest to PR pros, is that the industry has also been clearly associated with damage control and crisis management as well. Unfortunately, most of the clients who need such specialised services are often and already less than well-regarded to begin with, as evidenced by the many pre-existing negative public perceptions that need to be re-framed or better-managed to move forward.

This aspect of PR reminds us why an entire industry has seemingly (or at least historically) preferred to fly below the public radar to begin with. Lest it be seen as an artificial source of “truth” and painting itself with the same brushes that it uses to cover-up (erm, manage and reposition) notorious fumbles, scandals, or man-made disasters. In the end, a handful of PR firms that specialise in damage control have seemingly ruined it for all the rest, by exposing the underlying machinery of used to manufacture consent within increasingly savvy and well-networked ‘public audiences’.

As a result, the Public now seems quite ready (if not over-eager) to label any constructed media messages or cultural memes with such popularised monikers as “PR spin” or “astro-turffing”, regardless of any positive social results that might also arise. Worse yet, even reasonable arguments or counterpoints, from private individuals in the socialmedia space, are being increasingly dismissed as the work of PR flacks. Thus neutralizing a healthy discourse for everyone because of this increasingly negative view of PR.

So where can things go from here, as the pros try to map out a PR2.0 approach to managing our perceptions and gaining our permissions.

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PR2.0: Risky Relations

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PR 2.0Some would like to think that PR is undergoing a complete “revolution”. Others might just feel that the well publicised PR 2.0 moniker represents a greatly expanded toolset for PR, a new collection of ‘Media” outlets, or at least a major upgrade on the same old ‘code-base’ that PR has always relied upon. What it is for certain, is what PR2.0 isn’t.

PR 2.0 is not simply a loose or imitative spin-off term of Web2.0
These cross functional internet applications that are based on re-modeled AJAX and existing LAMP technologies, commonly known as Web2.0, enable much of the highly touted potential for “Social Media” sites to interact seamlessly.

Rather than just piggy-backing on this Web2.0 term, PR 2.0 should actually be seen as an exciting and timely emergence of an entirely re-invented industry. One that knows it is poised upon a great opportunity to redefine Public Communications and Corporate Relations, and create enormous new value models for all Marketing activities to benefit from in the process.

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PR2.1: Progressive Relations

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PR 2.0I think everyone who’s been following Social Technology for the past decade knows that the tacking the 2.0  suffix onto something “progressive” went out of style somewhere between HTML 4.0 and XHTML, so the popular term “PR 2.0” probably isn’t the best way to describe the many exciting new PR methods that the profession is now well engaged in. Not only is PR 2.0 simply an imitative form of the equally hackneyed Web 2.0 term, it really doesn’t even begin to offer us a clear picture of what it implies, aside from the fact that PR might have fallen behind on it’s upgrade path awhile back.

So until the next major feature-set is announced, let’s just go with the current numbering scheme for now. Until something better comes along, using the term PR 2.1 might actually be more appropriate, or at least suggest a few of the minor bug fixes that can be made to what’s currently the best version of Public Relations available…

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PR 2.2: Private Relations

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Social Media Buzzwords

Luckily for Users and Netizens everywhere, socialmedia is still more of a marketing buzzword than an applicable method. Most of the Marketing execs (and their contracted PR professionals) are still trying to wrap their heads around how to at least show value for their  ‘socialmedia” efforts, much less actually monetize them. As Consumers we’ve yet to see any particularly innovative uses for sociamedia, much less any initiatives that actually specify and drive the underlying protocols and standards employed by the various tools, forums, and arenas for social interactions. So as yet, the money-traders have yet to take over the temples…but we know that it’s coming.

So if you don’t count the widget of the week, or another 3rd party app/game that is rarely more than another way to gather userdata in exchange for yet another way to while away time at work or home.  Hardly the stuff that’s goign to change the way we transact and interact online…Or is it?

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Eco-PR vs. Power Producers

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Eco Fascism Fascists

Thanks to Nazi atrocities, the word propaganda has been permanently blacklisted from civilised society. So at this point in history we can’t describe anything with this term without invoking a backlash of politically correct reactions . Yet propaganda is still a very well-practiced art, even to this very day. In fact, many people would be astounded by the kinds of benevolent organizations that still employ such tactics on a regular and ongoing basis.

Nuclear energy is one of those hot topics that drives people with more fear than facts. Even when simply weighing the environmental risks and benefits of this supposedly ‘Green’ energy source, people’s defense mechanisms still lock themselves into rigid and even fearful frames of mind that invariably leave no room for rationale debate. Even while we continue to burn coal and oil at an ever-accelerating rate of global destruction, the subject of atomic energy remains mired in taboo, and dogmatic diatribe which has stunted it’s further development in the western world (with the exception of France) for decades now. While we continue to inflict severe and undeniable harm on the world around us with supposedly safer alternatives.

This confounding ecological paradox leaves one tempted to consider the possibility that Big Oil & Coal  have been well-served by our fears of nuclear power and would indeed be quite willing to support the propaganda efforts required to maintain the negative public profile that has dogged ‘nuclear’ for this long…Effectively assuring the utter dominance of a fossil-fueled society, even as you read this.

How’s that for a more realistic conspiracy theory?

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PR: An Industry in need of it’s own Services

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Professionals working within PR are well aware of the deep complexity of their field, and recognize the many specialties and separate disciplines within the very wide umbrella term PR. In <a forthcoming piece>, I hope to expound on the immense value (both Social and Economic) that PR holds for both its Clientele and the various public markets they wish to meaningfully connect with. First though, I need to examine what I’ve perceived to be a very alarming veer onto a rather dangerous road for anyone in PR to be trying to drive on at present.

It started with a recent article by Naomi Klein, who although I don’t agree with philosophically, I had to concur was pointing out an obvious risk to credible PR. She postulates, that a recent putsch of Israeli films (about Tel-Aviv in particular) in the Toronto Film Fest, were being seen as a PR campaign for not only Tel-Aviv tourism, but as whitewashing of of the latest negative world reactions to hostilities against Palestinians.

Without getting into that political quagmire, it is clear that PR is a common concept that has been associated with trying to change public perceptions of negative events. For a very longtime now, there are countless other mentions of PR in the daily news and Media, where PR is associated with damage control, or ‘spinning” corporate interests. This well known generality is just the tip of longstanding (melting?) iceberg however.

Take the recent case of Michael Bryant’s run-in with a cyclist…

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