The complete joy of being awarded Midlands Outstanding Consultancy of the Year and pleasure for our own Katie Bregazzi being awarded Young Communicator of the Year, was shattered by the news that while we were celebrating at the Midlands PRide Awards, the people of Paris were facing fear, terror and loss of life.
Subsequent social media chatter has pointed out that Paris is not the only city to be attacked and sadly hundreds of people every day face danger, terrorist attacks and tragedy. Some have said the media are to blame – it doesn’t get reported and there is some sort of conspiracy going on.
Actually I think this is sort of passing the buck. We have to take responsibility for making time and understanding the world around us, but too often we get wrapped up in first world problems and debating the big stories. It means that popular culture and debate over stories like our opinions of the John Lewis ad can elbow out the big issues that are tough to watch and difficult to understand.
This is where we, as PR professionals, have a role to play. Working within the media sector we have a responsibility to make sure our own news consumption goes beyond Mail Online and Metro. To do the best job for our clients we need to understand what’s going on in the world and the political, economic and social factors that influence the world around us. If you watch Channel 4 News you’ll know they have been reporting on what’s happening in Syria and the refugee crisis for quite a long time before it became the story of the summer. The media do a great job of reporting the news, but too often we don’t do a great job of listening.
Whenever I interview a potential new hire, my number one question is to ask candidates what their latest take on the news agenda is. Quite often, to be honest, I’m a little bit saddened at the responses I get back. Keeping a finger on the pulse of the news agenda doesn’t always seem to be top priority for PR professionals both young and old.
I understand the way we consume news is changing. I also accept there can be media bias and that social media also can beat traditional news reporting for speed and sometimes accuracy, I recognise its weakness can also be its editorial integrity. As media professionals I think it’s our job to encourage the search for news across all channels and forms of media so we have done the best job we can to interrogate and understand the story, seek the truth and make an informed decision.
This won’t just make us better at our job as PR and media professionals, but it will make us better human beings as we more fully understand the issues and challenges people face from all sides of the story.