How to Deal with Mass Media
While many can confuse the two, Public Relations and Mass Media are not the same thing. They are similar, in the way they both reach the masses through modern technology (television, phones, social media), but the practices are two totally different entities. Some say that with these increases in technology and society’s standards, that the lines defining the two are becoming blurred. This making them nearly a single entity, but this is hardly true. Is their existence truly, so interdependent on one another? Not exactly. To break it down simply, Public Relations is the relationship and communication between the client and the public. Mass Media is that relationship between the client and a media outlet. They are complementary but different. One may utilize the other to help a client, but there are boundaries drawn and goals laid out for each to build upon.
Now that we understand what the difference is between Public Relations and Mass Media, how do they communicate with one another? Well to simplify, Public Relations aims to see the very best stories in the media outlets about their clients. This has to be mediated by giving media what they want, which is trending and headlining stories. While one cares about the image of the subject/client, the other wants a catchy story that will increase ratings. Public Relations gives a pitch or story idea for their client, and the receiving mass media source may take it or they may not if it fits their needs. This is where one of the main conflicts between the two can arise. According to Chron (2017), the problem arises when Public Relations professionals pitch what mass media would consider a “boring” story. This also goes the opposite way, and more clashing happens when mass media takes a Public Relations pro’s story in a different direction than was originally intended, or totally dismisses it altogether.
Of course, this is a place where crisis communication and good old fashioned Public Relations skills come into play. If that story presented in the mass media gets out of hand, or perhaps tanks a client’s brand image, then some PR TLC is needed. Reigning in the mass media as it runs wild with the client’s story and save the client’s brand image is a means for swift recovery. From here, problems may snowball into a bigger scheme if not remedied. This is where a great cloud can fester if disregarded for too long. It is no secret that mass media can take a story and air out any dirty secrets that may exist in the client’s history. It is their expertise to create a great “expose,” which can cause problems for any Public Relations professional. It is a rather curious relationship that is delicate to avoid complications. Still, a Public Relations expert should maintain a backbone when dealing with the Mass Media. While there is no reason to incite conflict, it is necessary to defend the client to the extent of a PR expert’s ability.
In fact, Public Relations plays a large role in helping mass media outlets to find a new story idea. According to Michael Turney (2002), a high percentage of these stories are from the input of PR experts. In 1973, Leon Sigal reported that “almost 60 percent of the editorial content of the New York Times and Washington Post are generated by public relations efforts.” It may not be an entirely publicized effort, but one worthy of attention. The two are dependent on one another to reach the general population effectively.
How can the two work together in harmony? This is done through mutual respect of each other’s goals. It is the aim of both to reach the public with a story or idea, and it is their jobs to see to the fulfilling of their responsibilities to the masses. The only way for this to be beneficial to both entities is to remain honest and communicate effectively. In a way, it’s like a daily playdate. The world is a giant toybox of clients and stories. If the two cannot continue to share with one another, then there is a big tantrum bound to happen. Of course, there will be instances when a toy may break or a client’s brand image is perceived a different way than intended, but as long as the two can mutually acknowledge the issue, there should be no crabbiness. Because sharing is something we can all relate to!
Fisher, C. (2017). The Relationship Between Public Relations Practitioners & the Media. Retrieved from www.smallbusiness.chron.com/relationship-between-public-realtions-practitioners-media-67778.html
Obrien A. (2014). Public Relations vs. Media Relations. Retrieved from www.everything-pr.com/public-relations-media-relations/52598/
Turney, M. (2002). Working with the media. Retrieved from https://www.nku.edu/~turney/prclass/readings/media_rel.html