That was the best portmanteau of “public relations” and “journalism” I could invent. No, it’s not very good. Maybe you can think of a better one. Doesn’t matter.
What does matter (OK, not in the cosmic sense, but still) is that Jay Rosen has a fascinating interview over at PressThink with Tracy Schmidt. I highly recommend the entire thing, if you’re in either PR or marketing or journalism or just interested in the changing world of information. Yes, it’s a bit long but it is worth your while.
What really struck me about the interview is the overlap between journalism and public relations. Those two industries have always been tied because both, ultimately, are about the dissemination of information. Journalists might argue that their profession is a bit more “pure” because it adheres to some sort of “objectivity” and standards
but that all went out the window when those damn bloggers arrived but that’s never really been true and everyone who works in journalism knows it. Look at this passage, though:
Schmidt: Yes. So Bill asked me to move over to 435 Digital in October 2010 to work on its marketing campaign. He wanted me to write a blog about best practices for small business in the areas of SEO and social media. The blog was rolling along great. Meanwhile, I had been teaching several graduate classes at DePaul University on the intersection of social media and journalism. And on occasion, I would do a workshop for business people about understanding and using social media. So Bill asked me to test the concept of holding a class at Tribune Tower for our clients. Well, the classes started selling out.
PressThink: At how much a pop?
Schmidt: I started with very basic classes–like Intro to Facebook and Intro to Twitter. At the beginning, it was $50 for a 2 hour class held in a conference room at Tribune Tower. I literally brought the coffee in from Starbucks across the street and plugged my computer into a projector and put up Facebook and we walked through the site. Attendees asked for more classes on advanced topics– specifically using it for their businesses. We had no idea if it would work, or what it was, but by May, two months after I started, I was teaching two or three classes a week.
That sounds exactly like the sort of tasks we young, tech-savvy PR people are supposed to be doing. It’s a pretty good description of the way that I’ve talked with some people for whom I’ve done social media work, although I wasn’t officially giving lessons.
Reading that passage, I’d assume Schmidt was a PR or marketing professional. That’s understandable, though, given how social technology is making these two already-symbiotic industries even more similar. Both journalism and public relations deal in narratives, and by extent, depend on pieces of information. And good information can come from anywhere. Good info has always been able to come from anywhere, but nowadays, it really can come from anywhere and it can do so damn fast.
News institutions and journalism need public input for better advertising info, editorial direction and, most importantly, credibility with their customers. Public relations practitioners need public input to raise awareness, determine the efficacy of their campaigns and, again most importantly, establish credibility with their clients’ customers. The similarity between what Schmidt is doing with journalism and how college public relations students are being instructed underscores the convergence between the two industries in a world where information is cheaper, more widely available and easier to broadcast than ever before.