It’s not Hacks V Flacks anymore

A few years back I went to a Hacks V Flacks debate and it got pretty heated, with accusations of poor practice on both sides of the fence. I suspect the PR/journo relationship has changed a fair bit in recent years and so, in partnership with PR CRM software provider Pragmatist, we decided to put together a Hacks V Flacks 2.0 event.

On our panel were:

Kevin O'Sullivan, TV columnist, Sunday Mirror
Sean Ball, Marketing Lead, Pragmatist
Daney Parker, Editor, PRmoment
Graham Goodkind, CEO, Frank PR
Mark Borkowski, CEO,
Kristina Eriksson, Head of Media Relations, The FT

The relationship between PR people and journalists is evolving, but at the same time it’s true to say that “everything has changed but nothing has changed.” The quality of the story remains critical, while the importance of relationships built on trust cannot be understated.

The FT's Head of Media Kristina Eriksson and Pragmatist's Sean Ball on how they see the relationship between Hacks and Flacks

Here are some thoughts that came from the discussion that I managed to scribble down:

# Trust: Like all relationships, a journo must be able to trust the PR and vice versa. Betray that trust and don’t expect to get it back. On the plus side, if you can show that you can be relied upon, very powerful mutually beneficial relationships can be built, sometimes very quickly and sometimes over the course of many years.

# Empathy: I have long had a theory that empathy is a vital PR skill. I can’t see how you can be good at public relations if you can’t empathise with your stakeholders, including journalists.

# The story: The old adage remains that you cannot shine a turd. If your story is not timely, relevant and does not interest the journo’s readers/viewers then in all likelihood you are wasting his or her time and yours.

# Content: It’s important to read this in the context of the having a good story, but publishers’ resources have been hit hard by decreasing advertising revenue and an increased need for content to drive traffic. There is a huge opportunity for good PR people to help journalists fill this gap with good content -  be that infographics, photos, videos or dare I say it the ever reliable PR staple – the survey based story!

# Sales skills: Although we don’t like to always admit it, the ability to sell is vital in public relations, always has been, always will be. Empathy plays an important role in this but PR people need the confidence, intelligence and passion to be able to communicate with clients and journalists alike.

# The ability to write: It’s probably less important than ever before but for me, the ability to write incisive copy remains really important in PR. I reckon if you can’t write, you’re always going to be on the back foot in your PR career.

PRmoment Editor Daney Parker and Frank PR CEO Graham Goodkind on the importance of the story