The connection between journalism, advertising, and public relations

Journalism: the activity or profession of writing for newspapers, magazines, or news websites or preparing news to be broadcast;

Advertising: the activity or profession of producing advertisements for commercial products or services;

Public Relations: the professional maintenance of a favorable public image by a company or other organization or a famous person.

Aside from these three terms relating to a person’s profession, the important thing that they all have in common is the idea of providing the public with information. Along with each providing the public with information comes certain levels of bias, creating the correct image in the public’s mind, and strategizing ways to deliver these messages.

When it comes to journalism, the public likes to believe that journalists are relaying messages consisting only of fact and matter. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Although journalists are technically required to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, there are still ways for them to tweak the story in order for it to sound more appealing to and in favor of their company, brand, team, etc. For example, with Tom Brady and the New England Patriots recently defeating the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI, sports writers across the country will all state the same few facts: the Patriots overcame a 25-point deficit to complete the largest comeback in Super Bowl history, winning 34-28 in OT; Tom Brady won his fifth Super Bowl; Tom Brady and James White broke multiple Super Bowl records; etc. Where journalists can manipulate the story is in how they tell these facts.

The newspaper in Boston the next morning may have more stories focused on the outcome of the game, it will discuss how the Patriots won the game, and will likely discuss how historic Super Bowl LI really was.

The newspaper in Atlanta, however, may not be so kind. Blowing a 25-point lead in the Super Bowl is a bitter way to end a season, and the newspaper will likely reflect that. The newspaper will also acknowledge that Tom Brady won his fifth Super Bowl ring, and that the final score was 34-28 in OT. Here’s the catch: the Atlanta newspapers will likely fail to give the Patriots all the credit that is due, and will focus on how the Falcons lost the Super Bowl, rather than the Patriots winning it, and earning the trophy. In this way, the newspaper can still focus on their hometown team and tell the majority of the facts, but will do so in a way that fails to note how well the opposing team actually played.

When providing news through advertising, outlets like commercials, billboards, and other advertisements will also provide information to the public in a way that promotes their product or service in the most favorable way.

Reusing my previous example with the Super Bowl, the Patriots and Falcons participated in one of the most spectacular and exciting games of my life, and it was a joy to watch. Having rooted for the Patriots, I would love to have a “New England Super Bowl LI Champs” shirt to show that, however had I rooted for the Falcons, I would not try and find a shirt that said “Super Bowl LI Runner-Up.”

In advertising, the idea is to promote your brand as positively as you can, and to do so in this situation, the Falcons are more likely to promote merchandise that reminds their fans that they were the champions of the NFC, and that they at least played in the Super Bowl rather than promote gear that directly reflects the outcome—that’s what the Patriots are more likely to promote.

Being the best team in the NFL is an honor, and it would be wise for the Patriots to embrace that idea and share merchandise that reminds their fans of their accomplishments. For the Falcons, the same can be said about their accomplishments, however it would reflect different aspects of them. Examples of these advertisements can be seen on each team’s personal website: http://www.atlantafalcons.com/ & http://patriots.com

In public relations, the key concept is to specifically ensure that your products and clients maintain the most positive image possible. Using a new example (even though it still relates to the Super Bowl), Snickers has a lot of work to do after the stunt they pulled in their Super Bowl commercial. Although I am a big fan of Adam Driver, enjoy Snickers, and will not boycotting either of them any time  soon, there is still a need for Snickers to make up for what a disaster their commercial was.

Although they broke ground on airing something other than news in real time, received a tremendous amount of attention, and had many people talking about their candy and brand, it is still important for the Snickers’ public relations team to stay on top of any negativity the brand may face as a result of the commercial, and ensure that there aren’t any people who do choose to boycott their spokesperson or candy (again, I will not be one of those people).

If you have not seen the commercial yet, here is a link to it, as well as the brand’s attempt at apologizing for it later: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_9M_wQDTTdk & https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UiQFIAQ-Bd8

To summarize the connections between journalism, advertising, and public relations, the important thing to keep in mind is that each is a professional manner in which news and information is provided to the public. Although each may present these things in different manners and assert different biases, all three focus provide justifiable information for the world that will preserve a positive image at the same time.

Matt Henkel | GVSU | 14 February 2017