Drugi jezik na kojem je dostupan ovaj članak: Bosnian
Authors: Prof. Ana Tkalac Verčič, Dr.Sc. and Violeta Colić
- Croatian journalists and PR experts are satisfied with their jobs, but not with the state of the professions.
- Both journalists and PR experts believe that work conditions in PR are better than in journalism.
- Representatives of both professions don’t have a high opinion of the ethics and professionalism of “the other side”.
- Both groups believe they have considerable influence on the reputation of the organizations on which they report or for which they work, and they also assess the influence of “the other side” as high.
- Journalists assess the PR profession with a higher rating than PR experts.
- Journalists are more accurate in their assessment of the opinions of PR experts than vice versa.
- Both groups believe the opinions of “the other side” are more different than they actually are.
Relations between journalists and public relations professionals have always been an issue that engages attention. Although undeniably interdependent and unavoidably based on cooperation, relations between the two professions have been complicated and difficult from the beginning. This has been confirmed by many scientific studies conducted worldwide. But the times and the environment are changing and we should expect a change in the relationship between these natural (foes) friends.
The significant economic, sociological, technological and other changes that we are witnessing have a significant impact on these two professions, bringing new challenges for both. While trends in public relations are positive, at least globally, the journalistic profession is in a slightly different position. Journalists are faced with the collapse of their profession’s reputation, lower wages, a larger amount of work, uncertainty of employment and generally poor working conditions.
Scientific research conducted mid-year among Croatian journalists and PR professionals attempted to determine how much the times and current trends affect relations between journalists and PR experts, and how the understanding between the two professions stands today.
The research consisted of correlation analysis between the degree of (dis)satisfaction with working conditions of each of the two groups and their perceptions of the other profession, as well as the co-orientation analysis of the degree of consensus between the two professions on their role in building the reputation of the organizations they work for or reported on (through determining co-orientation variables – agreement / compliance, accuracy and congruence).
An online survey included 106 journalists and 101 PR experts. Journalists who participated in the study generally report on economic issues (51.9%) or politics (41.5%). On average, they have been practicing journalism for 15 years, and 52.8% of them reported that they had some experience in conducting PR tasks.
Among the PR experts, 66.3% of them work in the business sector, while 21.8% are engaged in politics. On average, they have been working in PR for 10 years and 56.4% of them say they have experience of working in journalism.
Journalists and PR experts are quite satisfied with their jobs. On a scale of 5 (where 1 is very dissatisfied, and 5 is very satisfied), the mean score of satisfaction among the journalists was 3.8, and among PR experts 3.9. However, as the working conditions of journalists have somewhat deteriorated in the last few years (M = 2.7), in public relations they have slightly improved (M = 3.2).
Journalists believe that public relations experts, on average, are better paid (M = 3.8), and PR people generally agree with that (M = 3.6). While the opinion of journalists towards the statement that work in public relations is less stressful is neutral (M = 3), PR experts do not agree with this statement (M = 2.1). Both journalists and communication experts agree that the conditions of work in public relations are better than in journalism, where journalists’ agreement with that statement is slightly stronger in relation to PR people (M = 3.6 vs. M = 3.4).
The representatives of the two professions do not have a high opinion of the ethics and professionalism of “the other side”. Journalists mainly disagree with the statement that professionals in public relations apply high ethical and moral standards (M = 2.4), and same goes or PR professionals who do not agree with the statement that journalists maintain high ethical and professional standards (M = 2.3).
Furthermore, both journalists and PR experts have a generally negative view of both professions. On a scale from 1 to 5 communicators gave journalism a mark of only 2.2, while journalists assessed it slightly higher, with 2.4. Public relations as a profession fared somewhat better. PR experts’ assessment of their own profession was 2.6, while the average grade given from journalists was 2.7.
When asked if the main purpose of public relations is manipulation and control of the public, journalists did not have a specific answer (M = 2.9).
The study did not confirm the initial hypothesis that greater dissatisfaction with their work and professional “jealousy” of journalists (because of better working conditions in PR) result in a more negative attitude of journalists towards PR. Although negative correlations were observed, they were not (statistically) strong enough to confirm this hypothesis.
The study also checked the validity of the hypothesis that greater dissatisfaction among communication experts with their own work results in a more negative attitude towards journalists, but in this case the correlation was positive (the greater the satisfaction of communicators with their own work, the more positive their opinion of the press), but the correlation was again statistically insignificant.
Journalists and PR professionals showed agreement not only in the ratings of the journalistic and PR professions, but also in their view of the impact of the two professions on the organization’s reputation. Both groups believe they have a significant impact (M = 4.0) on the reputation of the organization on which they report or for which they work, and both assessed the impact of the other side as significant.
When it comes to the accuracy of the prediction of attitudes of the other side, journalists were more successful than PR experts.
In three of the four questions PR experts were seriously wrong in their assessment of what journalists’ answers would be like. They overestimated the attitudes of journalists on journalism, they underestimated journalists’ attitudes about the profession of public relations, and significantly underestimated the opinion of journalists on the impact of PR professionals on the reputation of organizations.
Table 1: Accuracy – comparison of attitudes of journalists and predictions of PR experts on journalists’ attitudes (“What PR experts believe journalists are thinking”)
The opinion of journalists about public relations as a profession and the importance of the role of PR experts in building the reputation of their organization is considerably better than the PR experts believe. Communication experts believe that the difference in attitudes is greater than it actually is.
Table 2: Congruence – comparison of attitudes of PR experts and their predictions regarding journalists’ attitudes.
This should be somewhat worrying for PR experts, because one of their important roles in organizations is to monitor and properly assess the key public views toward the organization or issues important for the organization.
Unlike the PR experts, journalists predicted quite accurately the views of the other side. In three of the four issues they almost completely accurately assessed what the attitudes / responses of PR experts would be. The only thing they miscalculated was the mark that PR experts gave to their own profession. Here they significantly overestimated.
Table 3: Accuracy – comparison of attitudes of PR experts and predictions of journalists about the attitudes of PR experts (“What journalists believe PR experts are thinking”)
Journalists also assessed that the differences in opinions are greater than they actually are.
Table 4: Congruence – comparison of attitudes of journalists and their predictions regarding attitudes of PR experts.
Along with the online survey, the research involved individual interviews with 10 journalists, who have years of experience working in the media, on the subject of their views of the situation in public relations and journalism. The interviews showed that journalists see PR primarily as media relations and that they have very little awareness of other areas PR experts deal with, or should deal with. As a major criticism of the work of PR experts, they highlighted lack of understanding of the media, lack of knowledge of the media industry, and ignorance of the profile of certain media, columns and journalists, as well as their lack of creativity and proactivity. Another problematic issue according to these journalists is the low position of PR experts in the organizations for which they work, and therefore not a fast enough or reliable enough source of information for journalists.
The co-orientation model was developed with the intention to explain why groups of people change attitudes when they are in relations / interaction with other groups of people (Heider, 1958). The key assumption of the co-orientation approach (according to McLeod and Chaffee, 1973) is that the behaviour of a person is not only based on their own view of the world, but also on their perception of the attitudes of others around them, as well as their orientation / attitude towards a person or a particular common theme.
In public relations, the co-orientation model was used to explore different types of relationships, such as within an organization, between people and between the professions of public relations and journalism.
The model includes three key variables that describe how distant or close the views of the two professions are. Congruence is the degree of belief of each of the sides that the position or thinking of the other side is similar to their own. Accuracy indicates the extent to which the estimates of one side correspond to the actual positions of the other side, and agreement shows the extent to which the two sides actually share similar attitudes (or agree on estimates regarding a common theme). To determine the degree of agreement, it is first necessary to measure the difference in the thinking of both sides. The more significant the differences, the lower the level of agreement.
Authors of the research:
Prof. Ana Tkalac Verčič, Dr.Sc. is a professor at the School of Economics in Zagreb, where she teaches Marketing Communications, Public Relations, Advertising and Marketing Management (which is run as an e-course) in the Department of Marketing. She is head of the specialist postgraduate studies Management of Marketing Communications, and co-author and editor of numerous scientific papers and books such as Media Relations and Public Relations Metrics: research and evaluation. She is a member of the Editorial Board of the International Journal of Strategic Communication, and regional editor of Public Relations Review.
Violeta Colić is a director / partner at the agency Komunikacijski ured Colić, Laco i partneri (Communication Office Colić, Laco & Partners). She graduated in mathematics at the Faculty of Science in Zagreb. With more than 15 years of working in public relations and in the corporate (Agrokor) and agency (Premisa) sectors, she has extensive experience, and has positioned herself as one of the leading experts in communications management. As a strategic advisor she works directly with many presidents and members of management boards and senior management members of companies and organizations. She is active in the field of education in public relations, a certified lecturer of the CIPR program and a long-time member of the administrative bodies of the professional association HUOJ.