Media relations: still a big slice of the pie

12 Jun

In follow up to the previous post (about students in the workplace) and spurred by a rather heated internal discussion about the extent to which PR students should be steered towards or away from media relations in their first year at university, I’ve done some counting.

I took ten students I’ve assessed in the workplace (eight in-house, two in consultancies) and I’ve allocated ten marks for each depending on the extent of their work in some common areas of activity. So these rough-and-ready figures are percentages of placement student time devoted to the following activities, in descending order:

  1. Media relations (48%)
  2. Community relations (15%)
  3. Event management (12%)
  4. Marketing communications (10%)
  5. Social media engagement (10%)
  6. Internal communications (5%)

The surprise isn’t that media relations is way ahead as the primary activity (it will always have been there for junior employees in public relations), but that community relations and social media activities are becoming more prominent. But my sample is small: the social media engagement figure represents one student whose whose sole focus this was for a not-for-profit organisation; the community relations activity reflects two students whose primary focus this was.

Had I included more students working in consultancies, the media relations figure would almost certainly have topped 50%. So should we teach it?

8 Responses to “Media relations: still a big slice of the pie”

  1. Philip 12/06/2008 at 3:05 pm #

    I’m marking placements, too, Richard and I suspect a similar analysis would refelct your findings.
    In a similar vein, many of my Level2s worked hard on an essay about the challenges in evaluating a PR campaign – then went on placements where they spent most of their time clipping, counting and weighing cuttings to produce flattering AVEs…

  2. Stuart Bruce 12/06/2008 at 4:30 pm #

    Absolutely media relations need to be a major part of your teaching. The core skills and principles that you learn are transferable to many of the other activities. Writing for every single one of them; researching, understanding and building relationships for social media.

  3. Stuart Bruce 12/06/2008 at 4:35 pm #

    Whoops, should be ‘needs’ – I wish you could edit comments. You also need to teach them that more haste equals less speed and that it’s essential to check grammar, spelling etc – even for old fools like me!

  4. Richard Bailey 12/06/2008 at 4:40 pm #

    Thank you both. I suspect we’re in agreement (including about the value of flattering AVEs) and you make a good point, Stuart, about the transferable value of the basic skills.
    By way of context, the contentious word this morning was ‘news’, rather than media relations. But I think an ability to research, write, understand and anticipate what makes news is a great foundation – for internal and organisational communications, not just for media relations.

  5. Robert French 12/06/2008 at 4:41 pm #

    Good points, Richard and in comments from Philip and Stuart.
    Media relations is still the main aspect of practice for so many practitioners. It represents the majority of what we teach. For all the focus some may think we/I place on social media, it is not the primary focus of our program – or even for me, with regard to PR practice & teaching.
    I don’t have figures for you, but I’ll share these anecdotal observations. In an average eight hour day, our students may spend half their time on media relations activities. Some places, the other 50% may be online/social media. But, let’s also remember that all of the six examples you share above can be addressed online, in social media, for the right client. So, the water may be cloudy.
    Great thoughts. I’m going to look into this more with regard to our students and their placements. Thanks!

  6. Greg Smith 13/06/2008 at 4:20 am #

    Ditto for the importance and emphasis on media relations. Same here at ECU. The students are puzzled when you tell them they have to write like journalists. Then an editor comes in and tells them why … and the penny drops. I estimate 60-70 per cent of practitioner work is spent on media.

  7. David Phillips 13/06/2008 at 10:02 am #

    This is fine as far as it goes but there are some caveats.
    First is that the reach of media as we know it is in slow decline. It is conservative and written in a language that is conservative and of a particular (and old) kind of literacy.
    Second is that the PR industry is very good at writing for the media and getting coverage in it. As a result there are few incentives to change and this re-enforces a conservative industry working with a conservative media.
    Third is that the whole model is predicated on mass communication which now has to compete with networked communication.
    In networked communication messages are not ‘spread’. Consumers both pull them and have them recommended (frequently much interpreted by many intermediaries).
    Yes, we have to teach press relations and yes we have to practice in this area but we have to be aware of and able to respond to changing habits, cultures and the effects of the many new and networked media.

  8. Sherrilynne Starkie 14/06/2008 at 11:29 am #

    I’ve got students from both David and Philip working for me. Thanks for keeping a strong focus on media. And thanks also for teaching social media. It’s great to be able to hire new grads with knowledge of both.

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