Guest post: Unlike Australia, in the UK the journos actually play nice

In this guest posting Australian PR David Skapinker looks at the difference between media relations in the UK and here.

Brothers, sisters, why can’t we all just get along? I speak, of course, about the on-going and eternal battle between journalists and PRs.

I have worked in PR in Australia and I currently work in PR in the UK and there are some really interesting differences in how PRs and journos work with each other.  

You would think in the country that produced Absolutely Fabulous and Absolute Power; in a country that has something like 10 national newspapers; in a country where every second person you meet works “in the media” and in a country where front page news is literally Susan Boyle putting on lipstick (I’m looking at you here The Sun editorial team), the relationship between PRs and journalists would be even more strained in the UK than it is in Australia. After all, if the population is three times as large, surely that means three times as many press releases to wade through and delete?

We all know the tired arguments:

Journalist: “PRs are nothing but gatekeepers trying to spin a positive angle and keep the real news out of the news.”

PRs: “Journalists are lazy and rude.”

Here are, as far as I see it, the major difference between the relationships between UK and Aussie journos and PRs:

  • There’s a whole lot more media here. Journalists actually need to compete for stories and play nice with the PRs.
  • PR seems to be a more developed industry in the UK with. From my experience, PR has moved passed the stage of educating clients that they might need PR to rather educating how the media actually works (i.e. no right to check copy, what a deadline actually means to a journalist, etc)
  • PRs have higher access with the clients. In Australia, and of course I’m generalising here, but from my experience it seems that PR is a function of marketing rather than a valued process that can add value and work with marketing. Although C-Suite execs will still make whatever choices they want here in the UK, at least PR is at the boardroom table from the beginning

Clearly this is not an exhaustive list, but these are the major differences I’ve noticed in my time in the UK so far.

In both professions, there are examples of good and bad. I have seen my press releases end up in the Aussie broadsheets several times word for word (much to my and my client’s delight). I have even called a journalist to talk through a media release I was offering exclusively only to receive a barrage of abuse because I deigned to call, get hung up on and then receive a phone call two days later abusing me for giving the story to a competing publication.

And yes, some PRs are an absolute waste of time. One PR person I know actually thought it would be a clever idea to rely on the web for a nugget of information to include in a  media release, stating that the staff of a certain American talk show host had been killed by an anonymous letter filled with anthrax as part of a release on some survey about the workplace.

Now, I do not believe for a second that all Australian journos can’t stand PRs. Some of my best friends are journalists I have met along the way. But for some reason there is still the belief amongst a lot of journos that PRs are in most cases a hindrance rather than a help.

Likewise, some  PRs in Australia see newspapers and the broadcast media as their plaything, and do not appreciate that the job of the journalist is not to find a way to make your press release less like advertising, but to agitate, dig and find the truth.

I don’t want to sound preachy (perhaps too late?) but the reason things seem to work well over here is that journalists seem more likely to step into the PRs shoes and consider their perspective and vice versa.

There will always be a constant struggle between journalists and PRs, but come on, right now we all just sound like a bunch of whining Poms.

David Skapinker is originally from Sydney, where he worked at Markson Sparks PR. He now works in London in-house for one of the world’s 500 largest companies.


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.