Opinion

The PR industry needs to work harder to build authentic relationships with journalists

The demise of authenticity has coincided with the rise of fake news. PR consultant Katie Clift considers what needs to happen to bring trust back onto the table.

2017 was the year of fake news. The term itself even became a word of the year and it’s set to be officially acknowledged by Collins Dictionary in its next print edition.

With the very real rise of fake news, comes the rise of an even greater call for Australian media and PR professionals to commit to authenticity in 2018.

In fact, I would argue it needs to be the word of the year for Australian media over the next 12 months.

Authentic reporting, authentic relationship building and authentic press pitches are all vital to the integrity of our industry, and to the success of our careers as public relations, media and communications professionals.

We have a duty of care to our contacts, our featured talent and our publics to ensure authentic reporting. In such a fast-paced digital age of journalism, and in many cases a diminishing of newsroom resources, it’s becoming harder to fact-check or even double-check our copy before posting, broadcasting or publishing.

But the words we write, and broadcast, have power. The power to influence a point of view, a set of opinions, personal decisions and future thinking. We have a responsibility to ensure, to the best of our ability, that our reporting is accurate, genuine, well-formulated, in the best interests of our audience and timely.

Authentic relationships are crucial for 2018. Gone is the old notion of traditional networking. I honestly can’t recall the last time I built a long-term connection by swapping business cards over a glass of sauvignon blanc and dim sums at an industry event.

Great media relationships – between communicators and journalists, organisations and media, public relations specialists and broadcasters – all begin with authenticity.

We need to work harder this year – not on ‘cold-call conversations’ at a few select events – but in caring about our fellow industry colleagues. We must take the time to connect with others instead of competing. We must be open, committed, hard-working and humble to get the best media results for us, and for our publics.

I believe one of the best decisions we can make this year is to stop competing with other media professionals – even if we’re vying for the same media space. Working together to help each other maximise coverage will reap benefits professionally and personally.

It’s always been a personal value of mine to stay on the front foot and speak well of the people and organisations I work with.

We also need to say goodbye, in 2018, to the poorly-executed public relations pitch. There’s not one media outlet that has the time for a last-minute smoke-and-mirrors press release. We need to get better at pitching authentically, saying what we mean, communicating clearly and specifically.

Let’s refrain from talking up our story idea to be bigger than it is, or spin a pitch based on outdated or irrelevant information. Let’s not waste the precious time our journalists have – let’s commit instead to being transparent, preparing and offering authentic media stories that are timely, considered, bold and able to make an impact.

Australia needs more authenticity in its everyday media stories. That begins with all of us – consumers, organisations, public relations specialists, journalists, broadcasters, writers, producers and editors.

We need to work hard to make authenticity our word of the year for 2018. Moving from fake news, to authentic news. It begins with us!

Katie Clift is an international PR consultant, journalist and broadcaster living and working in Athens, Greece

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