Leo D'Angelo Fisher Columnist

Leo covers management and leadership issues, business trends and corporate strategy. He is a former senior business writer at The Bulletin and a former host of The Business Hour on 3AW.

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Media illiterati beggar belief

Published 23 February 2012 05:02, Updated 05 March 2012 10:21

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Almost every day I deal with public relations people who are nominally specialists in “media relations” but who obviously do not read mainstream newspapers and magazines. If it’s a cost-saving measure, it’s a foolish one. If it’s a view about “old” media versus “new” media, then perhaps they are in the wrong business. Whatever the reason, the troubling reality is that a big chunk of the PR fraternity simply doesn’t read newspapers, which can’t be good for the standard of professional media relations.

PR advisers cannot expect to properly represent clients to the business and finance media without an intimate knowledge of mainstream media. How can PRs prepare a media relations strategy without understanding the tastes, formats, interests and audiences of the principal mastheads and their journalists? PRs can’t be expected to have a deep knowledge of every publication they approach on behalf of clients but it is ludicrous to believe that PRs can do their jobs as media advisers and strategists without themselves being consumers of mainstream media. It beggars belief that any professional adviser to business can do so without a current knowledge of news, trends and current affairs – but especially when they are advisers in media relations.

It is difficult for me to understand how anyone who claims to be a media professional would not daily immerse themselves in national and international media. How can a “media professional” not love the media? Before signing up a PR firm, clients should delve into the reading habits of their future media advisers. It is reasonable to make certain assumptions about the knowledge and intellectual curiosity of PRs who rarely open a newspaper and to question the quality of their advice.

A colleague recounts being called by a PR consultant whose client was featured, some weeks earlier, in TheAustralian Financial Review. The PR rang with thanks but also had a gentle reproach for my colleague: would she mind terribly alerting the PR to future stories involving her clients so that she can rush out and buy a copy of the paper? Why isn’t that PR reading the AFR every day?

Practical and professional considerations aside, so-called media professionals should feel duty-bound to support the media out of pure self-interest alone. Occasionally PRs will ask me if I can send them a copy of the magazine in which their client is featured, to which I reply: “Please subscribe, the job you save could be mine – and yours.”

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