Churnalism is a form of journalism in which press releases, wire stories and other forms of pre-packaged material are used to create articles newspapers and other news media in order to meet increasing pressures of time and cost without undertaking further research or checking.  

Journalists are constantly being critisiced for ‘churning’ out press releases and not putting any real effort in. British journalist Nick Davies wrote about churnalism in his book Flat Earth News. He found that 80% of the stories in Britain’s quality press were not original and that only 12% of stories were generated by reporters. The fear is that there may be a reduction of quality and accuracy if stories are based solely on press releases and lack original journalism. Unfortunately the day of the roving reporter is gone following budget squeezes and shrinking news teams at most publishing houses and broadcasters. This has caused some journalists to be lazy and ‘churn’ out press releases.

The Media Standards Trust introduced Churnalism.com. The site enables visitors to check press releases against more than three million news articles, from national newspapers and the websites of major broadcasters. It allows the user to cut and paste the copy of a press release into a generator that then matches it to news stories that have appeared in the national media. The non profit website creates a database of ‘churnalism’, and these can be shared via Twitter or Facebook. It is hoped that this website will nudge journalists to be more open about their use of PR material, and encourage original journalism.

However I do think that some churnalism can be used. News stories should be objective and based on fact, whatever the source. As long as the details on the press release are correct and verified, there’s no harm in churnalism here and there.

The relationship between journalists and PR practioners is a complicated one and do not always see eye to eye. They have to work together because there can’t be one without the other, and so good quality press releases along with some original journalism seeking their news is important.

I read an interesting article about how social media may be one of the cures for ‘churnalism’. It talked about how most organisations are now really starting to encourage a feedback environment, asking people to tweet back to them or join groups on Facebook to start discussions and debate within social media. They are also now looking to those areas to find news content. Churnalism.com should go some way to show that social media is needed for media organisations. This will help to provide journalists with the tools to put their own angle on news that originates from a press release.

The article can be found here: http://reputationonline.co.uk/2011/02/25/is-social-media-one-of-the-cures-for-churnalism/



Posted on: May 3, 2011

As I have previously discussed, politicians can successfully use social media in public relations to gain authenticity and popularity as part of their PR campaign. Current US president Barack Obama is the perfect example of this. His brilliant use of the Internet will be studied as a textbook example of a campaign in which he used every channel possible. The campaign will be studied within the political world for bucking history and actually getting young voters to cast their vote.

Obama’s ability to motivate his supporters was largely a result of his charm, charisma and his language skills. But it was his community organizing skills that were valuable in getting his volunteers to actually do stuff. During the campaign, social media and social networking were such a huge aspect, and his team used sites like Twitter and Facebook to promote the campaign. It was central to his grassroots movement, and his my.barackobama.com initiative was a stunning success. The website provided supporters the tools to identify Obama voters and ensure they voted. By the end of the campaign my.barackobama.com chalked up some 1.5 million accounts, and Obama raised a record breaking $600 million in contributions from more than three million people, many of whom donated through the web.  

As the campaign continued, the internet grew from being the medium of a core group of political professionals to a gateway for millions of ordinary Americans to participate in the political process, donating their spare time to their candidate through online campaign tools.

In many ways, the story of Obama’s campaign was the story of his supporters, whose creativity and enthusiasm manifested through websites and YouTube videos online. It was clearly the best use of the web in a political campaign. His presidency and his popularity owes much of its success to his command of the Internet as a fundraising and organising tool.

Myspace – Obama gained 30% more friends than Clinton.

Facebook – Obama gained 6 times more friends than Clinton.

Youtube –  daily viewership of Obama’s videos – app. 45 million absolutely surpassed those about Clinton – 12 million

An article on mashable talks about how he has continued to use social media even after he was elected president. His PR team and perhaps himself regularly contrinbute to his Twitter account, Facebook page and blogs. On his Facebook page there have  been a nonstop news feed of videos, links, and pictures, and he is the number one page at the moment. Even after his succes, him and his team continue to gain authenticity through regularly contributing online.

You can find the mashable article here: http://mashable.com/2009/07/04/obama-social-media-scorecard/

Search Engine Optimisation  is the process of improving the visibility of a website or a web page in search engines via the “natural” or un-paid search results. The website will appear on the first few pages of the search results from Google, for example. SEO considers how search engines work, what people search for, the actual search terms typed into search engines and which search engines are preferred by their targeted audience. Optimizing a website may involve editing its content and HTML and associated coding to increase its relevance to specific keywords and to remove barriers to the indexing activities of search engines. Why is this important? Because it drives qualified traffic to your site to engage with you.

With social media changing the face of public relations and the whole world, SEO is an important tool in an online campaign. To ensure you’re website and blogs are looked at, you must make sure they have SEO or your campaign may not reach your targetted audience and may be unsuccessful.

Once the website copy has been optimised, links from external sites back to yours play a vital role in telling Google and other search engines how important your site really is. Good public relations and the online practice of link building go hand in hand as they share some important features.

  • Public relations is the process of building a company’s reputation, largely through the use of positive media coverage.
  • Link building is the process of building a web site’s ‘reputation’ by getting links from relevant and respected web sites.


So who better to get such valuable links than PR professionals?  They can use their existing knowledge and expertise to successfully use link building to make their online campaign or company a success. SEO PR combines skill sets from public relations and search engine marketing, and is really a cross over between search, marketing and public relations. It involves ethically communicating online material to news sites. The point of this is to raise the brand and profile of brands in the digital realm by making them more easily found in search engines and driving more relevant traffic to the site.

There are certain things that PR professionals need to know when trying to get SEO:

  •  News stories stay online – your news item can still be read with great interest months after the event.
  • The links the story creates not only bring people themselves but also boost your search engine traffic.
  • Online stories can spread extremely quickly. A press release online can be taken up and commented on minutes after it’s issued.
  • Smaller sites assume a greater importance. They’re read by people who are passionate and informed, not just interested, and the links they bring can be even more valuable than those from mainstream media.

Another mashable blog talked about how PR pros are using social media for real results and in this post I will try to summarise and give my opinion on the key points that are addressed. As I have previously discussed in another blog, PR professionals use social media and sites such as Twitter and Facebook and Youtube as an essential tool in a campaign. PR pros are using platforms such as these to connect better with clients and their audience by using social media correctly and overcoming the challenges.

In the past PR professionals may have been limited to phone calls or email if they wanted to contact each other and promote their company or client. However with the rise of  social media platform, they can converse with clients easily, and also the rest of the world.

In the mashable article, PR professional Jeremy Pepper said, “Social media is a great tool for public relations people, especially if you align it to both PR goals and figure out what the ROI is for the client or the company.” ROI stands for return on investment. He talks about how he uses social media with Palisae Systems, a business-to-business data loss prevention company. He used Twitter as a powerful tool, shooting out information, retweeting interesting articles and participating in conversations. Blogging is one way the company can share stories beyond just what goes into a press release.

Social media also communicates authenticity becomes it seems more personal when you converse with someone on a site like Twitter than if you read about them on their website. Politicians have really embraced social media, for example Barack Obama’s online campaign. Claire McCasksill is also a politician who has embraced social media in a big way and she has become the second most popular person in congress on Twitter. Her authenticity is important because she makes an effort to reply to Tweets. As Claire McCaskill shows, there are huge possibilities from a PR perspective for politicians who use social media.

Brand loyalty is another reason for using social media, as Pepper works for another company, Targus, which sells computer bags and accessories. He develpoed brand loyalty and turned customers into fans, by using the companies Twitter account to promote giveaways and promotions and monitoring Twitter conversations to target bag-buying consumers. Using social media has provided Pepper with a simple way to build brand loyalty without having to invest significant time and resources.

Finally, successful PR professionals are using social media to start conversations and build relationships with people, including clients. The most successful PR pros focus on creating active relationships and truly engaging with their customers.

The original blog can be found here: http://mashable.com/2010/03/16/public-relations-social-media-results/

Nowadays, most people I know get their news off the internet rather than traditional media like newspapers. This is generally because it is instant and easily accessible. More recently, people first here about breaking news on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. I often see something written by someone on one of these sites, and then go to a traditional organisation to read more about it, like the BBC website. Newspapers are withering, television has watched audiences decline, radio is splintered, and magazines are shrinking. Meanwhile, there are millions of bloggers and Facebook users, Twitterers and texters and Linked-in businesspeople. As reporters disappear from traditional media, PR practitioners are forced to consider and to use social media.

But how is social media affecting the PR profession?

It is moving away from the old broadcast model, as now audiences can participate and respond to what they see and read because of the emergence of social media. The public can now discuss, engage, and even take action. PR campaigns can use social media to seek out and create conversation with their target audiences. Social networks can also be used to find new contacts or increase the interest in their issue or their client. The profession is also using blogs as a communication tool as blogs become increasingly used and a new channel for releasing news. PR practionaers can use blogs to interact with audiences and stakeholders, and engage with a wider blogging community. A blog can be the face of your brand or campaign and can be successful if used correctly and updated frequently. Blogs must be contributed to regularly to be successful. Online photo sharing is also used as images have always been powerful communication tools.

Social media is a great tool for PR, but it does create challenges. This is because they break down traditional categories of audiences such as employees, customers and shareholders. Also, practioners cannot assume a message will reach everyone they want it to reach. Social media are so fragmented that an individual may or may not see information in a blog, on a Facebook page or in a Tweet.

If these challenges are recognised and dealt with, social media used alongside other tactics and offline media, can be an essential tool in a PR campaign. A blog on mashable by Erica Swallow talks about how public relations specialists were one of the first people to embrace the power of social media. She also talks about how it is changing the industry and how it will affect the future of the press release, the evolution of social platforms, current limitations and solutions for those impediments, connecting with other PR pros, cost savings, and building relationships.

This blog can be found here: http://mashable.com/2010/08/16/pr-social-media-future/

  • The first blog I came across told me that the PR profession is dominated by women and 90% of students on undergraduate PR degree courses and studying for professional qualifications are female. This is a sign of progress with the potential for any young women entering PR and becoming high up in the profession. Pay levels are comparable and senior executives are as comfortable as taking strategic advice from women as well as men. However in some areas of PR there is a clear gender divide as men still get more senior positions. 
  • I also learnt what a media advisory is. It is designed to encourage a reporter to come and cover and event. When writing a media advisory you should keep your client in mind and make it as simple as possible for the reporter to find details. It should include pertinent contact information, a catchy headline and the 5 W’s, Who, What, Where, When, Why. The Why is the most important because you should use your persuasive skills to convince the reporter that the story is newsworthy.
  • Twitter will soon turn 5 years old and now has around 190 million users. It is social media but also used professionally in the PR field as it is a trusted community. Many people could not live without twitter.
  • I then read a blog about ‘churnalism’. According to PR week, senior PR professionals are worried that churnalism.com is threatening to undermine the PR profession. The website invites users to enter some text and it then correlates it with coverage in national newspapers and the BBC to show how much was cut and pasted, or ‘churned’. But maybe churnalism isn’t that bad after all? With journalists under more pressure to turn copy around quickly with less people, the need for good quality press releases is greater than ever.
  • The relationship between journalists and PRs is very complex. As I have already found out, it is inter­est­ing that nearly two-thirds of those in PR in the UK are women, while Women in Jour­nal­ism says women are under­rep­re­sented in Britain’s newspapers. The journalist’s com­mon complaint is that PRs don’t put out enough proac­tive stuff or enough usable proac­tive stuff. However PRs are aware of journalist’s needs because many were once journalists themselves. In the future though, PRs will be forced to focus on com­mu­ni­cat­ing directly with their key audi­ences – cus­tomers, share­hold­ers, peers and the pub­lic — through social media and the inter­net rather than rely­ing on the media.

The seventh most powerful eartquake ever recorded hit the coast of Japan causing widespread outages, fires, a severe tsunami and complete devastation. Twitter is quickly becoming the go-to service in emergencies, and the reaction on the site was worldwide, immediate and intense. It became an invaluable tool for millions of people caught up in the aftermath of the eartquake. According to Tweet-o-Meter, the number of tweets coming from Tokyo were topping 1,200 every minute, less than an hour after the quake.

The horrendous scenes from Japan were the talk of Twitter for days, as people shared news, information and video streams. People offered their best wishes to those who were suffering. This support and information was helpful for many people, particularly because phonelines were down and updates on Twitter were sometimes more immediate than mainstream media. Social networking sites like Twitter became a lifeline for many people hours after the quake struck. Videos posted on Twitter were viewed by hundreds of thousnads of people before the mainstream media rebroadcasted them.

Twitter was also very useful in the crisis because users shared the tsunamis estimated time of arrival on US shores, before the government gave and official warning.  Google’s official feed posted a link to the Japanese version of the People Finder, for loved ones who had been seperated.

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