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Carl Stroud, News Director at Democracy on why Ros Atkins is right – storytelling and PR must adapt or die

Authored by: Carl Stroud – News Director


BBC News presenter Ros Atkins has warned that the nation’s newsrooms must adapt or die.

The same holds true for the PR industry.

In a recent speech to the Society Of Editors, Atkins explored the changing place journalism occupies in today’s society. And he pulled no punches, saying: “News is not a given in people’s lives.

“It can’t be assumed that people will seek to learn about their world via journalism. It can’t be assumed that people understand and value the way journalism works.

“It also can’t be assumed the way we tell stories is the way that people want to hear them.”

He concluded: “We need to reimagine what we do.”

It’s a clear red flag for PR and Marketing professionals – that by continuing to provide our partners in the press with the same content as we always have we risk becoming obsolete.

Only by understanding how newsrooms now operate in the post-Covid landscape can we hope to remain trusted by journalists.

Helpfully, in his speech Atkins also set out the SEVEN essential principles for storytelling.

By following these, PR and Marketing professionals can give themselves the best chance of generating cut-through.

They are:

1) What’s the problem?
“Journalism is in some ways a service. And if we can’t identify the problem that we’re helping someone solve, then perhaps this journalistic idea isn’t one we should be pursuing.”

 

2) Why is this different?
“An old editor of mine used to say we’re making news for people who know the news. If we’re not adding something beyond the basic facts of the story, perhaps that’s not enough.”

 

3) Where’s the evidence?
“We need to once again restate what we do. That means not just asserting things have happened, but providing evidence, so people can see how we draw those conclusions.”

 

4) What’s the social and digital element?
“This might seem obvious, but it’s worth reiterating. If we’re spending money on journalism that has no digital dimension, we should ask whether that is money well spent.”

 

5) Bring in the right people
“When you have an idea, put a small multidisciplinary team behind it as soon as you can, it has the power to change the idea and change the organisation.”

 

6) What does success look like?
“Quite often when there’s a pressure to innovate and do things because we feel we need to do it. That’s okay but we need to have ways to measure if it’s working.”

 

7) Does it move the dial?
“How are you going to tell a story? We can see the digital revolution as a distribution revolution, a different way of getting things to people, but actually it’s a storytelling revolution.”

 

Democracy’s forthcoming state of the newsroom report explores this shifting landscape in depth.

It is crammed with insight from senior figures across the sector and reveals the full extent of the radical transformation now underway across the industry.

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