Did you know that the majority of the UK’s news comes from PR sources?
That might seem unlikely, or exaggerated, but it’s true. Various studies have been carried out by academics at different points this century and they’ve all reached the same conclusion, albeit with varying figures.
Estimates are that between 50% and 80% of material for stories reaches journalists via the conduit of PR. In some areas, such as business news, that proportion can be as much as 90%.
Many journalists spend more time filtering and sorting the stories that come to them – by email or phone or social media – than they do going out and about with their notepad and pen or recording devices.
So why is this? Well, journalists are very often short of time and resources – yet increasing numbers of pages, online and in print, plus long hours of broadcast schedules, need to be filled.
If nothing much seems to be going on that day, a news outlet can’t say to their readers, viewers or listeners: “Come back tomorrow if anything interesting happens.”
Not that there would be any need to. Today’s news agenda is always lively and buzzing, if rather crowded, because organisations are supplying more and more high-quality news to the media.
There is always something interesting to talk about.
Journalists naturally look to contacts that they know and trust, people who are articulate and authoritative, trustworthy and reliable, to help them generate the news content they need quickly and efficiently.
Very often, those people are PR professionals.
Surveys, research reports, media launches, announcements, anniversaries, awareness days, awards, celebrities and photocalls are all great starting points for stories.
But it’s up to PR teams to devise these events and supply the relevant press releases, photos and interview opportunities.
If a celebrity, politician or VIP talks to the media, a PR professional will have worked with them beforehand, preparing good, honest and engaging answers to really get their point across.
Even when incidents, accidents, crimes and tragedies make the news, it’s PR teams representing the emergency services, government and councils, charities and other organisations who rush the information out to the journalists, prepare statements and arrange access and interviews.
Some people argue that PR has too much influence over the media but without PR there would be so much good stuff that the public would never, ever get to hear about.
Communication professionals routinely and consistently uncover incisive and engaging stories – and, crucially, package them in a way that makes them easy for the media to share.
How would a journalist, or indeed the public, get to know what was going on behind the doors of any organisation if there wasn’t someone there to shine a light and tell its news?
Those stories might be about business successes, scientific breakthroughs, vital public health information or the next big thing in entertainment – the list is endless.
Whatever sector they work in, forward-thinking companies know all this and are more aware than ever of the need to put PR at the heart of what they do.
And when that PR function is as honest and ethical as it is creative and professional, it is a true force for good.