Fresh eyes

Will PR clients benefit from Leveson?

Will PR clients benefit from Leveson
Andrew Taylor Senior PR & Comms Manager

Written by Andrew Taylor,
PR & Communications Director at Freshfield

Lord Leveson’s report into the culture, practice and ethics of the press contains recommendations for tougher self-regulation that have provoked heated and ongoing debate.

Some journalists have expressed fears that the freedom of the press is in peril. Meanwhile, 52 per cent of PR professionals who took part in a recent survey said the report will have a positive effect on the PR industry, compared to 18 per cent who think its impact will be negative.

But where does this leave the business clients of PR firms?

Extra opportunities will be generated for PR clients

It has been suggested that traditional sources of information for journalists – especially the police and armed forces – may dry up and that PR business clients could fill this gap.

There is some merit in this argument. Journalists will require reliable and well researched material, and any help businesses can give – such as industry insights, statistics, and expert opinion – will be reflected in greater media profile for the PR client.

Emphasis on quality PR output will remain

It should be emphasised, though, that only quality input will pass muster. Newspapers will not suddenly start filling up with limp stories based on anodyne or self-promoting press releases.

Moreover, the importance to newspapers of investigative journalism has been hugely exaggerated. The overwhelming majority of any newspaper’s content is not the product of long and expensive investigations, but diligent and efficient journalism. So, although there may be more opportunities to gain media profile for PR business clients, there will be no free or easy pickings.

More breathing space in times of crisis

PR business clients are more likely to see tangible benefits in crisis communications because editors will be more reluctant to publish content unless they are totally confident of their facts.

The upshot will be a little more breathing space for crisis-stricken businesses, although this time must be used productively for robust defensive PR activity. The press may take more time to get a story right, but they won’t simply go away.

Social media will have a major impact

It is also important to consider that the internet and social media has had a massive impact on both journalism and PR operations.

PR professionals can get their clients’ messages out without necessarily going through newspapers, while newspapers must reach out to their readerships through online news platforms and social networks. So, while newspapers clearly remain important, they are not as vital to PR as they were 15 or 20 years ago.

The continuing need for a professional approach

The Leveson report is without doubt a significant landmark in newspaper practice. However, while it will create some openings for PR-savvy businesses, it will not radically alter the current requirement by newspapers for quality PR activity.

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