To pay or not to pay the Journalist, that is the question
Someone once said, “The pen is mightier than the sword”. This couldn’t be truer! Time and time again throughout history, words, both written and spoken, have influenced society and changed lives.
This is why journalism can be addictive. It’s in seeing your byline on top of a good story as a result of your interactions with thought leaders and captains of industry and the field work that opens up so many new angles in which you can tell the story. These are some of the things you miss when you make the shift to public relations.
Like I have said before, PR is a behind the scene industry. It confines you in so many different ways because while the messaging is meant for the public, it is really all about the client.
Most journalists who have made the shift may not be brave enough to tell you, but it takes time to adapt to writing for PR. However, when you get the hang of it, you will learn two things are key in getting it right; research and the art of product placement while pitching articles to editors. At WMC Africa, we have used our words to create content that has caused our clients to shine and elevate their brand and corporate interests.
But perhaps the biggest challenge you will face in our industry is the ‘brown envelope’. As a basic policy and work ethic, PR professionals do not pay journalists to attend and provide coverage of clients’ functions based on the simple understanding that they are not on our payroll. This is one of the reasons some PR firms are unpopular in the newsrooms and are still unpopular in some media houses today.
This policy, however, is informed by the belief in building meaningful long-term media relations. It’s about not just making the media our true friends, but engaging them to understand how best we can synergize and achieve both their objectives and ours.
Coming from a journalistic background and knowing the popularity of brown envelopes, I am frequently placed in an uncomfortable position every time we hold events. This is because you are working with friends and you understand their challenges which range from low pay to delayed payments or sometimes no salaries for months on end.
In addition, very few media houses in this country are keen on facilitating their journalists’ career growth say, through training and refresher courses. This is why brown envelopes will continue to play a sensitive role in this industry.
It is an extremely tricky position to be in when you understand all this, but at the end of the event you can only smile, shake their hands and just say thank you for coming.
I am not an advocate of the brown envelope, because it is unethical. I, however, believe media houses need to step up and invest in their reporters as we all work together to add value to our industry.