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PR or News

Here is an excellent column by Bob Terry of The Alabama Baptist about the difference between PR and news: IMB Public Relations Fails to Serve Southern Baptists. Here are a few highlights:

Said another way, a public relations release is designed to advocate on behalf of the organization. A news story is designed to inform readers.

Public relations is a management function. That is why communications officers, whatever their title may be, sit on top-level management teams. Administrators carefully work communication strategies for the benefit of the organization. In public relations, management usually approves stories before they are released.

News stories usually come from a source outside the organization. This is supposed to help eliminate built-in bias. The organization being reported on seldom sees the story in advance although individual facts or quotes may be double-checked. The reporter’s story is usually edited before being released, but it always remains a news story — a story designed to inform.

... Denominational entities ought to trust the people in whose name they serve to the point of providing fair and balanced accounts of issues raised in meetings as well as the meetings themselves. That is difficult when an entity has a public relations program instead of a news program and when the chairman of trustees must approve stories before they are released.

... Baptists are best served when they are given information about an issue and allowed to reach their own conclusions. Trying to manipulate Baptists by furnishing only one side of an issue or by sharing information only from the perspective of the organization — either administration or trustees — does not serve Baptists well.
Amen! While denominations and church organizations should highlight the positive stories, they should not hide information from the people they serve. Terry offers a couple of great examples to prove this point. When everything is out and in the open then it is more likely that better decisions will be made (think Catholic priest abuse scandal). It would be great to see communications specialists and officers engaging in news—even if mostly positive—and less in slanted or misleading PR pieces.

Thanks to the SBC Outpost blog for pointing out this column.

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