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Can PR professionals and business journalists repair broken relationships?

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This is an excerpt from “The Future of Business Journalism: Why it Matters to Wall Street and Main Street” by Chris Roush, Dean of the Quinnipiac University School of Communications.

When Marina Strauss, a retail reporter for the Toronto Globe and Mail, began covering a change in strategy at restaurant chain Tim Hortons in October 2016, she met with the company’s CEO and other executives. requested an interview. her publicist told her. Interviews will take place in late November. However, after interviewing junior executives and several of his franchise owners, Strauss was denied further interviews by the company’s public relations staff.public relations According to Duncan Hood, editor of the paper’s Report on Business magazine, people told the paper they weren’t allowed to include personal information in their articles.

Tim Hortons canceled all further interviews, including an interview with the store manager an hour before the scheduled start and an interview with Strauss in the car on the way to the meeting. The Globe and Mail ran an article about the company anyway.

This is just one example of the splintered relationship between business journalists and spokespeople who represent the business. Lack of cooperation often has a negative impact on coverage as it can often lead to incomplete information.Many PR Professionals Are Good While we strive to maintain working relationships with business reporters and editors and provide them with accurate and timely information about their companies, the increase in hostile encounters and hurt what others know about important employers in their town, City. It’s also becoming increasingly clear that publicly traded companies are hiring spokespeople because company news drives their stock prices up and down, and they don’t want their stock prices to go down.

For private companies, hiring a publicist can help you get a higher price when selling to other companies.

The battle between PR and business journalism has recently been won by an increase in PR staff.According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 6.4 spokespeople The number of all journalists in the United States in 2018 has increased from 1.9 public relations staff for all journalists just 20 years ago. According to the US State Department, between 2008 and 2017, US newsrooms (newspapers, television and radio stations) cut her by 26,000. Labor.

This disparity could get even worse. [4 percent] average [growth] According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Overall employment of reporters, correspondents and broadcast news analysts is projected to decline by 11% from 2019 to 2029.” Declining advertising revenues in radio, newspapers and television will adversely affect employment growth in these occupations.

Public relations salaries are also higher than journalism, leading many reporters and editors to switch careers. Journalists earn just 65 cents for every dollar a publicist’s salary, according to the Pew Research Center.

As a result, companies increasingly go under the shadow of their publicists, ignoring requests for information or interviews from business reporters, going on the offensive and trying to change the focus of their stories, or making statements to reporters who don’t answer questions. I’m putting out Featured in a reporter’s question. Public relations experts now recommend that the companies they represent stop inviting business reporters to events such as annual investor conferences, or simply refuse to talk to them. In some cases, publicists may lie or obscure the truth. Additionally, public relations strategies now go directly to consumers and others by using social media such as Twitter to distribute corporate messages. They argue that using social media removes the filters of journalism. In journalism filters, reporters only use the important parts of the message.

Sure, that’s a reporter’s prerogative. However, companies benefit from media coverage in many ways. By limiting their interactions with the business news media, PR professionals are hurting payroll signing companies in the long run. In the end, the truth about the company often comes out.

Consider the case of KQED reporter Lily Jamali. He has covered the Pacific Gas and Electric Company for many years. Pacific Gas and Electric Company, a San Francisco-based company, has helped overcome perceptions of neglecting its customers after its equipment caused wildfires, burning forests and people’s homes. I was having a hard time. When the company offered a portion of its stake as part of the settlement, and a spokesperson said it was a common strategy, Jamali recalled past cases, saying, “It turned out to be completely untrue. I did,” he said. She also said the company was “reluctant” for executives to talk to reporters. “The only time I had an opportunity to interview a CEO was on the sidelines of a regulatory or court hearing,” she said.

Then there’s the situation many business journalists face. Writing negative stories about a business can cause the spokesperson to cut off access to executives and answer simple questions. In Virginia, Dominion Virginia Power, the state’s largest utility, declined to speak to reporters at Virginia Pilot. issued a statement to the newspaper. has received “inaccurate, biased and unfair news reporting and opinion pieces” from newspapers.

Other public relations staffers hang exclusive interviews and articles in front of business reporters, forcing journalists to drop separate stories that may portray their company in a negative light. Charles, reporter for Fox Business News When Gasparino was a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, he received a memo from Merrill Lynch not to open an account with a broker. For less than $100,000, he added, “If you want to do business with the poor, you can get a good job at United Way.” When Gasparino reached out to the company about his story on the memo, a PR rep responded: Would you like an interview with our CEO? ’” Gasparino declined the request. Others, however, may be upset.

It’s easy to see why the relationship is so strained. Many business journalists find public relations people getting in the way of their work. David Carr wrote in the New York Times: Modern chief executives live behind a wall of communicators, many of whom are throwing out their ladles with the intention of obscuring rather than revealing. “

Carr was polite with the word “slop”. Spokespeople are increasingly using lies, falsehoods and misleading information in their communications. In 2015, Shannon Bowen, a professor at the University of South Carolina who studies public relations ethics, wrote that a survey of publicists found that the majority of them admitted to lying to their organizations. increase. media regularly. “Why do journalists not trust their PR sources, rate their ethics lower than journalists, hunt other sources, gather more information, or even just check the facts? Is it?” she wrote.

Here’s an example of how this happens. Her personal finance articles, which appeared on CNBC’s website and in a column written by her personal finance columnist for the Washington Post, quote the “experts” in student loan refinancing. However, the person cited was made up by a spokesperson for a student loan refinancing company. An “expert” conducted the email I had an interview with a journalist, but it didn’t exist.

Indeed, business reporters frequently turn to public relations professionals for article help. However, given the examples given here and many others not included, relationships are severely damaged and media.

Also, the corporate communications staff must do a better job of training executives so that they understand the important role they play in today’s society. It’s harder than it sounds, given that many business owners have egos. “They need to communicate on their behalf, but they are typically not trained or primarily selected for these aspects,” Ansgar found. Zerfass and Markus Wiesenberg from the University of Leipzig and Dejan Verčič from the University of Ljubljana.

If you’re a publicist or believe that a publicist provides a valuable service to a company, don’t worry. Journalists also make many mistakes when reporting on business and the economy. He wooed the CEO, adopted their views instead of doing more coverage, overlooked good data his sources and article ideas, and prioritized the glitz of his street above the information needs of the main wall. increase.

But that topic would be the content of another essay, or a book like the one I wrote.