11th Oct 2011, by Andrew Barr

Will PRs ruin the Guardian newslist for everybody?

PR, public relations

When I first heard that the Guardian was to be posting its daily newslist online (basically, a list of stories they’re covering that day, the general gist and who’s covering it), I was impressed. I wasn’t quite sure whether or not your average reader would care about the organisation’s newest demonstration of their ‘digital first’ strategy, but all in all, I thought: great, brave idea, albeit one that was first launched by a Swedish regional paper called Norran in June this year, as national news editor Dan Roberts was happy to point out.

As with the majority of times I hear about media happenings that particularly interest me, the first thing I did was talk to my long-suffering fiancée about it, to which she replied ‘shush, X Factor’s on’. (She’s much more of a scan-the-Mail-Online-and-comment-on-fading-celebrities-who’ve-got-fat type of media consumer; you see).

Then, though, I got to thinking a bit more about it.

Forward features lists, while not as widespread as they once were are nothing new, especially from slightly less regular, slower moving publications.

So, how will what is essentially just a daily forward features list be used by our industry?

What if, despite Robert’s insistence that journalists won’t ‘pay much attention to pestering from PR people’, we (uncharacteristically) ignore this and bombard them with offers of expert opinion related to their news?

Should we feel we shouldn’t approach with spokespeople or other information, even if especially relevant? Or should we be worrying more that pressed PR people, desperate to get results for clients and placate shouty-shouty bosses, will take advantage of the daily newslist to tenuously pitch and in doing so, ruin it for everybody?

Today, for example, in the very first newslist, Jess Shepherd is down as writing a piece about how ‘iPads and other new tech [are] flooding into our schools’. I’m sure many PR people could think of ways to shoehorn their clients in there to fit in with that particular story, but whether or not they should is another matter. A reader could, for instance, get in touch with their thoughts about tech at their kid’s school, good or bad, and instantly prove the newslist’s usefulness – or, and this is how I suspect it may go, a hundred vaguely-related tech client pitches will wind Miss Shepherd up to frustration.

A hundred or two more and we may well have one PR-hating hack on the rampage, with no coffee shop left-unturned as she attempts to drown us in our expensive but sensitively sourced skinny lattes.

It’s clear that the Guardian is ready to pull the plug on this whole idea if they don’t feel it is working – Roberts says so in the announcement. Whether or not ‘bad PRs will absolutely positively definitely ruin it’, as Alex Wilson, an intern at Dynamo PR thinks – or, it’s ‘one of the greatest successes of the publishing world’ as PR consultant (and former freelance journalist) Sean Fleming think it may well be remains to be seen, but don’t be surprised to see a list of repeat offenders blogged about by somebody at The Guardian in coming weeks and months.

Anyway, I’m off to see if we have a client who fancies commenting on the plan to save the Euro and just where they see Slovakia in all of this. Our gift experience day client should be perfect.

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