Arment Dietrich

Is Social Media Creating a Loss of Filter for Young PR Pros?

By: Arment Dietrich | December 13, 2007 | 

I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Harris Diamond at the annual PRSA Chicago leaders event earlier this week.  He was our honoree and spoke for a few minutes about how social media is changing the face of how we deliver information about our client’s products and services.

I won’t get the quote quite right from memory so I’ll paraphrase.  He said we’ve lost the filter that reporters used to provide to young public relations professionals.  If a young professional is speaking to a reporter about the issue of obesity, for instance, it used to be the reporter would check the facts before running a story.  Now a young PR pro can post information about obesity on a blog or Web site and the filter of fact checking no longer is there.

Now why is it a) that an inexperienced PR pro would have the opportunity to post anything about anything without having a filter for checking facts and b) that we’d rely so heavily on reporters to do our jobs for us that we even need to be worried about not having the reporter filter?  No wonder reporters think we’re flacks. 

Perhaps I’m taking his comments out of context, but it does make me wonder how we train our young professionals and help them gain credibility without the “flack” perception hanging over their heads?

One question I didn’t get to ask…Harris, what do you think is going to happen to the communications fields in light of the development of Dell and WPP creating the Da Vinci marcom agency?

(The event, by-the-way, was held at the new Freedom Museum in the Tribune building.  If you’re in Chicago and haven’t been, it’s a must see!  Thanks Gary Weitman for hosting us!)

  • Angela Loiacono

    As a young PR professional, I have one strong comment for these thoughts. Regardless of whether we’re discussing social or traditional media, we shouldn’t need a fact checking filter. If we’re doing our jobs well, it’s unnecessary.

    In addition, if we’re carrying out our responsibilities correctly the perception of being a flack will be dispelled.

  • Edward M. Bury, APR

    We need to educate the media – along with publics – on the definition of “public relations.” A few weeks ago, I heard a TV report about a new Al Queda video that was sent to that guy Al Jazeera. (I think he has a pizza place in Melrose Park. ) The video reflected better audio and production qualities than previous ones. Anyway, the idiot reporter noted that “Al Queda has really enhanced its PR capabilities.” I almost threw my beer glass through the TV. (Why waste good beer.) As we all know, Al Queda employs propaganda. They don’t employ public relations. When will these news idiots learn the difference? One fosters open, two-way communications and welcomes feedback. The other does not.

    While I’m on a roll, here’s another thing that pisses me off: Ever read a news report that references how an organization published a “slick, glossy brochure” to promote a cause/event/program? Well, what they hell are they supposed to produce? A document on toilet paper? Does the Tribune produce its collateral materials on old newsprint?

  • I couldn’t agree more. How are reporters supposed to feel good about working with PR professionals if they can’t depend on us to do our work first, or, how non-established PR professionals write blogs or articles that have no factual evidence. Isn’t that spin itself, and we are supposed to be ones fighting the faulty media exposure!

  • As someone who just recently got into the PR industry I would like to be perceived as less of a clean slate and more of a piece of clay that can be molded. Hopefully I will be molded into someone that does there job accurately and professionally so I won’t be looked at as a necessary evil. And the way that I am going to learn those things is from the way I am ‘brought up’ in the industry. I only hope those in the position of ‘artist’ through out the industry treat their work with care.

  • Jason

    Good point. The good news is that people who consume web content know to take much with a grain of salt. Trusted content filtering, such as, will become ever more useful as the information consumption patterns continue to change.

  • As a PR professional, I hope those coming out of college have a high regard for the industry, and would check their own facts, even if they were pitching reporters. Reporters and PR professionals shouldn’t be a system of checks and balances, but a team who’s goal is to provide accurate and important information to the public. It is dissapointing Harris shares such a jaded view of his own industry.

  • Don’t get me wrong. I like Harris. I like him a lot. Most of what he said about new media was spot on. I just don’t agree with his comment that the filter is gone with new media. And I agree with Angela…it’s our job as PR PROFESSIONALS to get our facts correct before we communicate anything externally. This is not a Harris bashing posting.

  • Cory

    As a person in the PR industry but without a communications education, I think that you can’t “train” credibility. Credibility is something required in every industry and earned by experience, it just seems to be much more hard to retain in this industry. Credibility is the bedrock of any business and why anyone, especially PR professionals, would risk eludes me.

  • Maggie Hassler

    I agree with Gini that an inexperienced PR pro would NOT have the opportunity to post anything without having a filter for checking facts even with new social media. In a PR agency setting mentors, account leaders, and peers would all serve as filters in some way, whether reviewing work offhand or directly monitoring a website or blog. Also, young professionals have internal filters, such as their need to prove themselves in the industry.

  • I admire what you’ve got performed below. I such as part exactly where you say that you are undertaking this to give back but I’d assume by all the comments that this really is working for you as well.