Guest editor Kevin Overbury welcomes you to Behind the Spin Issue 13...
Just a year ago – certainly two – few PR professionals would have really known what was meant by the terms blogging or RSS feeds or podcasts. They might have prided themselves of knowing about “new media”, but by that they probably meant websites, or email, or for the really adventurous the ‘listen again’ options on the BBC website.
Now what we might call the “new new media” words are entering the industry’s consciousness. More and more PR professionals are recognizing that they need to learn, and learn quickly if they are to provide clients with a genuinely comprehensive service.
Indeed three conferences on blogging and new media hosted by Sunderland University attracted a large number of PR professionals eager to learn. This issue contains a series of articles about blogging, podcasting and citizen journalism and a host of other new ideas to bamboozle the technologically illiterate. They are written by the people who will be tomorrow’s mainstream PR practitioners – students and graduates to whom the new media is just part of the way life is.
One of them is a Sunderland University student, Stephen Davies who writes about starting his own PRrelated blog which attracts 20,000 page views a week. His blog is a remarkable success. But he is not alone.
Sadly, for many practitioners in today’s PR mainstream, new media will always be a wild environment that at best they can attempt as outsiders to explore. Even the Sunderland conference-goers who recognize the issue will still often at best be feeling their way gingerly ahead.
For many PR agencies and departments, the place they will look for that expertise and new media familiarity will be those just joining the profession. It means new joiners who make sure they know what they are talking about can steal a march on their elders (I won’t say “and betters”). It also means the institutions that run PR degree courses must also ensure they equip their students properly.
How much it will change the whole basis of PR is open to debate, the sort of debate that takes place in these pages. The basics of identifying our objectives, our publics and the messages we aim at them will remain – but just what those messages need to say, and the forums in which they need to say it, might be dramatically different in ten years time to what we are used to now.
Meanwhile, the industry is not even agreed yet on just what PR actually is – in fact on this blog there is a suggested new definition of public relations. Neither is the society we work in yet quite sure about PR degrees, and certainly media studies degrees. There are interesting thoughts in these pages about that, too – and some useful tips about job-hunting from those who have just done it.
Elsewhere, we look at providing PR for regulatory bodies, mixing the need for simplicity and accuracy with the complex needs of what these sometimes mystifying organizations actually do.
We look at this year’s Oscar-winning Hollywood films and find a commitment to seriousness and thoughtfulness that goes well beyond the average blockbuster. We look at the growing place of public relations in the success of charities, how we will soon be thinking about using sound in PR campaigns, and how a student project has helped raise the profile of a Yorkshire school.
A mature student talks about how hard it is to balance ironing and running a home with a university course, and we learn about a one-woman publicity campaign that involved living for months on the roof of a Derby bus station.
There’s a discussion about how we explain to people the risks they might face taking part in, for instance, a drugs trial and a plea for an end to our obsession with celebrity tittle-tattle.
This packed issue looks at how public relations is being done now, and where it might be heading in the future. We hope you enjoy it