By late afternoon, Thursday, an edit page piece for the Just in Jest section titled, 'Journo Confession-Mine PR Kiya' in India's leading pink paper, The Economic Times, was doing the rounds of every PR community platform on social media.
Among the points it made was about being asked repeatedly for information about when the story will appear and requests for relationship-building meetings. Not an unusual stand for journos to take online. What was unusual was that this post was not the usual journo posts on X (formerly Twitter) but was on the hallowed edit pages of ET.
Virtually, every second post on this reporter's timeline was about the ET post. It soon reached a momentum where PRCAI felt the need to take up the publishing of the OpEd with ET.
Deeptie Sethi, CEO, PRCAI told PRmoment, “PRCAI has formally reached out to the Economic Times and will be meeting the editor to address the concern. The unpopular piece, unfortunately presented a one- sided perspective and wasn’t funny sadly.”
The journo-PR stand off is not new, but of late seems to become more acrimonious than usual, fuelled by social media posts and Google's updates which prioritise editorial coverage for SEO. Which means that SEO firms are also targeting journalists increasing the load of emails and calls on journalist. Journalists are not wrong to be upset about being chased for stories, but the tone of the piece has upset many.
A senior PR professional who doesn't want to be named said they were recently asked by a media. house not to post any of the stories done by them on social media. The media house said such stories should only be posted by the organisation or person quoted and the PR firm should not be tagged.
What the PR industry said
Good points have been raised by several PR professionals around the following issues:
1) The tone of the article
The tone of the article has been criticised as being in poor taste. Senior corporate communications professional Moushumi Dutt stated on LinkedIn, tagging senior ET journalists and editors, ""Just in jest" is clearly a misplaced title for this incredibly negative narrative, belittling any profession/ al is wrong, only bullies will resort to such tactics. ET opinion pieces are hugely respected and widely read, this one is an aberration. Have huge respect for ET, don't let an entire community of PR and comms professionals down. Please."
2) The PR point of view
Abhoy Chattopadhyay, sport PR specialist said on LinkedIn, "This one is doing rounds probably because for the first time this skewed opinion has managed to break the realms of Social media ( read Facebook; Twitter now X; LinkedIn & Blogs) to now find a space in mainstream print media and surprisingly in one of the most premier financial dailies of the country. While we all may look at this piece on its face value and get into a never ending argument like many of our friends and seasoned senior professionals have, how I look at it is a little different -
Senior corporate communications professional, Bhaskar Mazumdar says "With great power comes great responsibility", here it's not true. I fail to understand one thing, if our profession is so hated then why so many are switching to PR. BTW, people who are switching generally find it very difficult to work on the other side.
PR industry has moved beyond normal and regular media relations & it's more strategic in nature. One good thing is this time a lot of PR professionals have voiced their concern against such derogatory remarks.
ET journalist turned communications professional Aman Dhall, founder of CommsCredible had this say refeencing a piece he wrote on journo-PR ties four years ago:
On the other side of the spectrum journos are not wrong about the incessant phone calls to carry stories, requests for the now infamous RBM. For that PR firms and clients both will need to invest in some much needed mentoring and training to guide the young media engagement executives.