Journalists and Communications Professionals: Are They Allies?

· Blog

Let's take a look at these two professions that rub shoulders, interconnect and are often essential for each other:

On one hand we have the journalist who relays the news and reports facts in order to inform the public. On the other, there is the communications professional who supports a client to effectively convey their messages to target audiences through media.

Even if these objectives seem on the surface to be very different, they actually have a number of common objectives and activities.

Communicate clearly

More than ever, it’s important in 2023 for both journalists and communications professionals to build and maintain a positive relationship, one that ensures a flow of information of interest and the conveyance of important corporate positions to the public through the communications professional.

Open communication is essential to building and maintaining strong relationships between journalists and communications professionals. Empathy too! Cision's State of the Media 2022 report discusses the importance of communications professionals empathizing with journalists who are over-stretched, have to juggle downturns in their own industry, and face serious social media rivalry.

It is obvious: the interests of the two professions may be different but require transparency at every stage of the relationship so that in the end both can serve both the public and their businesses.

The public relations professional has a duty to ensure that the information sent to journalists is accurate and relevant, so that they can offer content that will attract the attention of their readers or viewers. In fact, the same Cision report insists that journalists want public relations professionals to provide them with material appropriate to their target audience.

The client who hires a public relations firm may be reluctant to speak to the press and this is where (among other things!) the communications professional can intervene, both to instruct them, but also in ensuring targeted and useful information is submitted to the right journalists. The role of the communications professional is also to explain to the client how journalists works and to mentor spokespersons so that important elements are quickly and clearly put forward in statements or media interviews.

In the end, the journalist has editorial autonomy depending on the medium for which they work and the subject involved. However, it is up to the communications professional to ensure they understand both the journalist and their needs so any client press release or statement is relevant and useful to them.

The professional ethics that unite us

There is sometimes a misconception of competition between these two professions. Relations are, however, cordial and reciprocal. On both sides, there is a mutual understanding of the objectives and priorities of each profession, and both are governed by codes of ethics that clearly state the appropriate conduct for each.

In the code of ethics of the Société québécoise des professionnels en relations publiques and in the Guide de déontologie journalistique (journalists’ ethics guide) of the Conseil de presse du Québec, it is stated that both professions must be accountable, honest and fair.

Ultimately, both journalists and communications professionals must have the public interest at heart and must be conscientious in the way they convey information.

Restoring public confidence

In the State of the Media 2022 report, when asked "What do you think has been the biggest challenge for journalism in the last 12 months?" 32% of journalists surveyed answered "Maintaining credibility as a reliable source of information/fighting accusations of fake news."

Speaking of trust, the CanTrust 2023 report from Proof Strategies, Capital-Image's longtime Canadian sister agency, paints an encouraging picture of trust in the media in Quebec. Indeed, Quebecers have a higher level of trust than other provinces in traditional media (newspapers, radio and television). This year, trust in traditional media has risen to 43%, up eight percentage points from last year. The Proof Strategies CanTrust Index is a leading source for research and understanding of trust in Canada.

Over the past few years, it should be remembered that the influx of fake news has given communications professionals a lot of trouble. Truth, accuracy and transparency are therefore the watchwords. Nothing should be taken for granted!

To this end, the communications professional and the journalist must collaborate to offer quality content and to continue to build and maintain the trust of readers and listeners. By promoting good communication between companies or other organizations via a communications professional and its spokespersons as well as journalists, the facts can be made clear and misperceptions rectified.

Cision's study also shows that after press releases, it's industry experts that journalists find most useful to their work. To this end, professional communicators will be able to give them access to experts, including for interviews that will enhance the legitimacy of a subject in the eyes of the public.

Journalists and communicators are two essential and complementary professions that serve a key role in society. They are united by similar codes of ethics and a common aim to communicate clearly to inform the public. These two professions also have a duty to act in a way that builds and maintains public confidence.

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