The Old Ones are Always the Best

A recent article by Sir Richard Evans in PR Week looked at how Basil Clarke’s (a pioneer of British PR in the late 1920s) five principles for effective communications still hold strong today. They are:

Claims in press releases should be sourced – Clarke said that all press materials issued by his public relations company had to include references for any claims so that journalists could check them. Apparently he saw this as important to maintain credibility.

Some of my friends refer to my job as ‘smoke and mirrors’, but I believe that honesty is always the best policy in PR and that any false claims should be avoided. If you are found out, journalists will have a field day and you’ll have egg on your face.

PR firms should not canvas for business or accept payment by results (PBR) – I’m not sure I agree with the first point! Perhaps in the 1920s with so few PR agencies, Clarke had companies beating a door to his path. How times have changed!

However, while PBR sounds attractive to some clients, it just doesn’t work as it focuses on quantity and not quality. Until we have much more sophisticated evaluation techniques, that clients are willing to pay for, relying on the thickness of the press cuttings book does not take into account the quality of that coverage.

Ethics are important – Once again, I believe that honesty is always the best policy. Don’t try to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear and don’t try to cover your tracks if you make a mistake. If you do and you get found out, the consequences will be far worse.

Apparently Clarke only accepted clients that he believed would bring public benefit. I have also turned down potential new business in the past that I wouldn’t feel comfortable promoting, such as pay-day loan comapnies. I’d also never work for competitive clients (it says that in my contract too).

“No single sole in this world is an enemy of the editor if he has fresh, live news to tell” – People can get worked up about stunts, which I often think is caused by their ego rather than a belief that it will gain decent media coverage.

I agree with Clarke here – the best way to secure coverage is simply to find the news value in a client’s work. If you regularly send journalists decent news releases, meet their deadlines and don’t write them sales-led articles, then you will have a strong reputation with them and secure ongoing coverage for your clients.

Four factors determine news value – 1) Importance of the story 2) Human interest 3) Timeliness 4) Source reliability. Nothing changes there then!

Tags: , , , ,