Public relations “as important as food”

By Óné Chappy

trevor morris

PR expert Trevor Morris today gave journalism students the hard sell – saying jobs in his profession were more plentiful and better paid.

Mr Morris, a professor at the University of Westminster, discussed the importance of PR with students at Leeds Trinity’s Journalism Week.

He said: “Asking if PR is good for us is like asking if food is good for us.” But he added: “Too much may be a bad thing.”

The former CEO of Chime Public Relations described the complicated relationships between journalists and PR officers.

They had conflicting agendas – journalists preferred bad news to good news, and tensions also arose because “there are now more, better paid PR jobs than journalism jobs.”

He added that PR was often made a “scapegoat” but he said: “Journalists want to publish things that PR people want to keep out of the news, and we want them to publish stuff that a lot of the time they’re not interested in.

“That’s a perfectly healthy relationship and there’s nothing wrong with that.”

However, because of newsroom job cuts reporters were now having to produce a lot more copy than they did 20 years ago – and the need for PR had never been so great.

He said: “Money from advertising paid the journalists, and the fewer journalists there are, the less time there is going to be to investigate.”

But he added staff and revenue reductions should not be used as an excuse for poor journalism.

He said: “A good journalist should still be critical of the press releases and PR stories that they get.

“There is always another point of view and a good journalist will get both of those and mash them up to make a good story.”

trevor action shot

Mr Morris said media relations was what differentiated PR from advertising and other forms of communication. And although the media now had a very high PR content, up to 80 per cent of press releases never made it into coverage, he said.

PR was not always as powerful as people thought – and he added the porn and illegal drugs industries did well despite having no PR coverage.
Mr Morris, author of PR Today: The Authoritative Guide to Public Relations, said: “To say PR is biased is much like saying the sea is wet. PR professionals are paid to represent a view.
“Sometimes PR people don’t tell the truth. Journalists don’t always deserve to know the truth.”
He said he wouldn’t lie to a journalist but admitted he might mislead if it was in the client’s interests. He added that white lies and half truths could stop people getting hurt.
Giving tips on how to do well in a PR career, he advised students to consume a lot of media – read all sorts of papers plus social media.
To watch the video of Mr Morris’s entire talk, click here.
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