PR in the press: Facebook Home and more…

I’m testing a new type of blog post. The newspapers are read far and wide by many, but when B2B PR consultants like us pick one up we often see beyond the story on the page. Sometimes there’s something in the way a story has been told that shows how news reporting is evolving. Or there might be a story which has an underlying message about PR and its strategic importance.

Anyway as this will be tomorrow’s digital chip paper I better crack on! Here are three stories from today’s Independent with a hidden PR spin.

Facebook Home – flipped reporting

Here’s one of the many news articles covering the launch of Facebook Home, the social network’s new mobile software launch. OK so one example does not make a trend but it is an interesting display of reporting being flipped on its head in a tech savvy culture. Traditionally a golden rule with technology was ‘sell the benefit before the feature.’ I feel this piece is the other way round entirely. We hear how Home will be powered by Android, how it compares to the Apple iOS market how HTC will be the first Facebook-ready phone producer. It’s only in the last three paragraphs that we learn about the user benefits and how they will work. Does this tell us anything about the way tech PR stories should be prepared and pitched? Has our understanding and geek love of feature and function overtaken the need to major on the benefits? Perhaps considering this article is general news on page 9 and not in the business section, the answer is yes.

Paris Brown – PR stunt or not, good luck!

Who is Paris Brown? Almost a minor celebrity in the last 24 hours thanks to the just 17-year-old’s appointment as the UK’s first youth crime commissioner. The story here is about cries of public money wasting – why does the police need to pay a teenager £15k to understand the hearts and mind of young offenders? It’s a story with an underlying PR theme – namely whether this scheme is just a publicity stunt that the public are paying for? My question is does it really matter? Whether it’s a PR led initiative or not, if visibility helps it to stick and achieve something useful then what’s the problem. As soon as we get a whiff of a ‘PR trick’ the general consensus is that it’s a fabricated scheme with no substance. As we know from numerous publicly funded projects it’s not simply those with a PR goal that fail. Perhaps the public visibility of the project will actually help it to gain traction and put the onus on measurable achievement in order to publicly report the outcomes and successes? Good luck Paris!

HP – PR driving boardroom decisions

So HP chief Ray Lane has stood down following the reported Autonomy acquisition botch. Is this a case of humble PR and reputation being the driving force behind boardroom decisions? Lane is quoted as saying that he chose to step down in order to “reduce any distraction from HP’s ongoing turnaround”, or in other words his presence was bad PR for the business when it really doesn’t need it. How many times recently have we seen troubled companies take these big leadership decisions based on the impact of tarnished reputations? It’s a good lesson that, in hard times as well as good ones, PR plays a critical and strategic role in business fortunes and the most strategic decisions.

Rob Skinner

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