I read an interesting article today in Ragan’s PR Daily, on how Nissan in the UK has created its own internal media operation. (Sorry, I think you have to register to read the original piece, so I can’t include a working link to it hear. Ragan’s PR Daily: please take note!)
Essentially it’s an internal news operation staffed with former journalists recruited from many of Britain’s mainstream broadcast and print media outlets.
The debate and comments that followed touched on why journalists are switching to PR roles, whether Nissan’s ‘news piece’ was being watched by anyone, the role of newsprint in the future, and so on.
I think all the comments make good points. And, as with everything to do with PR, it’s all subjective. There is nothing inherently wrong with a company creating its own material, and using today’s channels, and tomorrow’s, to make it available.
And there is no doubt that journalists are simply becoming thinner on the ground.
But none of this is new. This is just the latest example of what we’ve all been doing since at least those 1930s GPO films created in Britain for mainstream consumption, mentioned in one of the comments in the blog.
But: communications and public relations are about creating value and then helping people find it. It doesn’t work without the value (and the best idea in the world remains the best-kept secret if people don’t know about it). And the audiences define the value. Get it wrong, and, as before, everything collapses in a nasty mess. Shouldn’t stop us trying (and I’m favour of trying rather than hesitating), shouldn’t stop us from admitting that it didn’t work and moving on. But, as one comment has it, treat your audience with disdain and contempt, or without scruples, and you’re dead.
And striking the balance between self-created material (isn’t that propaganda?) and creating a case relevant enough and compelling enough for others to pick up (journalism) remains perhaps the central characteristic of successful public relations. Those media outlets that work out how to create new content that we, the consumers, define as being of value, will thrive.
So: we all continue to need media. It’s just that they will be different very soon.