To some readers of this blog, this will come as surprising news. Journalism and public relations are close cousins. Heck, they may be brothers and sisters. However, let’s stop short of calling the two professions identical twins.
Why are the two communication areas so seemingly different but closely allied? Well, get past the fact that we need each other. That’s right. Without media outlets public relations’ clients would not be heard, read or viewed. To be totally candid, reporters need our help, too. PR folks provide a lot of fodder for journalists; story ideas, sources, tips and background. Throw in shared experiences with extreme deadlines, round-the-clock schedules, disdain for poor grammar and ever-evolving relationships with online and social media tools, and it’s clear we play in the same ballpark.
But, the two fields seem closer still when you read some of the professional code of conduct from a well-run newspaper in southern Indiana called the Bloomington Herald-Times. I recently sat on a discussion panel with a few reporters and one of them was from The Herald Times. She distributed a six-page document of the rules of the road at the newspaper.
I was intrigued to read the Preamble which stated, “The job of the journalist at The Herald-Times is to tell the stories of the communities we cover.” Wow. The job of the public relations professional is to tell the stories of our clients. Hence, it’s all about story telling.
But the stories must be true coming from either profession. The Herald-Times reports the news gathering entity, “Publishes only what we know to be true.” Great. And PR practitioners do the same. Well, at least they had better do that.
This one I really like from The Herald-Times truth telling section. “We do not manipulate information to intentionally convey a false impression or emotion.” This is key to avoiding the sometimes low-brow ethics and moral turpitude net cast upon the public relations profession. PR people must not put out information in a less-than-truthful way, nor give false impressions to the media nor public. If you are in PR you know this. Misleading, misdirecting and cover-up are not part of our job description.
Alas, there is an important tweak to the truthful information sharing point. In PR, just like in your personal life, you generally don’t tell everything you know about something or someone. In other words, you must figure out what is appropriate and essential to provide the public and press and stick with the facts … yes the seemingly redundant, “true facts.”
I like what The Herald-Times had to say about reporting. There are certainly similarities between our two worlds. Now, are we just one big happy family? Well, not quite. But we’re close.