This week I would like to talk about PR. So, what is PR? Well in its simplest form PR means Public Relations and manifest itself as a team or an individual that dedicates their time to influencing the public’s opinion on something. It can be a company or a politician the concept remains the same. PR seeps its way into almost every part of our lives in this short piece I hope to be your guide, to show you the differences between PR and real objective journalism in the hope that you may learn to spot it wherever you consume media.
So, we will start with PR. what is its purpose? How is it different to journalism? The most common example for the application of PR is in politics, politicians are filtered by PR. this is called spin, when a political party or politician uses PR to create a different, preferable image to win votes. As you can imagine this has an adverse effect on objectivity. This mediation between the client and the audience is achieved through dissemination and restriction of information. By feeding us the public snippets of information that create a custom narrative. McNair (2011) argues that politicians use free media and PR because the word of a journalist is more sacred than that of a politician, meaning that the effect is still the same but because it is presented in a new format it is more likely to be believed.
This leaves journalism caught red handed, working for political narrative rather than objectivity. However, that isn’t always the case. Yes, journalism can be manipulated and spun but at its core journalism is simply the communication of information to the public. As an example, I will look at an article posted on The Sun website. The Sun (2017) argues that Brexit should be accelerated using terms like “every wasted week” and “let’s get on with it”. The article encourages people to accept Brexit but other than that there is little information, what is there are snippets that create a narrative that makes people want Brexit to happen faster. This is PR restriction and dissemination.
So what can real journalism bring to the table? Through informed debate and objectivity, a journalist can inform the public properly. Giving them the truth and all the information they need to make a separated decision. As an example, I will now look at another article on Brexit from a more objective source. I chose an article released just under 2 weeks after the one above published by The Independent. In the article, Merrick (2017) lays down much more information, informing us that there will be no free trade deals. The article is much more objective looking at both sides of the story and is a genuine attempt to inform the public about Brexit.
So, in a 500-word nutshell that is the difference betwixt journalism and PR, when you read the paper or look at a news article on Facebook examine the content. Only believe it if can be backed up. The best way to counter PR is through education.
McNair, B (2011) An Introduction To Political Communication: Routledge (118- 120)
Merrick, R. (2017) “EU Parliament vows UK won’t get free trade deal in the next two years – hours after Philip Hammond declares optimism”, The Independent, 29th march. Accessed: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/eu-parliament-uk-no-free-trade-deal-two-years-brexit-talks-philip-hammond-optimism-theresa-may-city-a7655686.html
(2017) “So that’s it… Brexit is law, signed off by the Queen – so let’s get on with it”, The Sun, 17th March. Accessed: https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/3111446/so-thats-it-brexit-is-law-signed-off-by-the-queen-so-lets-get-on-with-it/