Suddenly everyone is an expert. The digital age has provided the technology – cameras and phones – and created the platforms – social media – for us all to become publishers of our own material. At the same time newspapers are cutting staff and becoming more and more reliant on content generated by, or on behalf of, local businesses. Has there ever been a greater opportunity to promote your goods or service? Yes, but...

As a journalist and PR operator, this piece is not an attempt to justify the continued existence of two under pressure industries. The digital revolution has created an abundance of streams of communication which enable editorial or public relations/promotion to reach a readership or audience at the press of a button. For journalists of a certain age this is utopia. No frustrating wait until your newspaper is printed next day or next week. No delay before the slow wheels of television production eventually broadcast your story. Twitter, which was once all about celebrities getting stuck in lifts or what they had for breakfast, is now the first source of breaking news. Journalists are even tweeting the outcome of cases from inside court rooms. This is great – as long as they get the verdict right, of course. In fact I have just discovered that there is a news service called @CourtNewsUK reporting events from the Old Bailey and other major courts of the land. Whatever next...

Do not get me wrong. I think this is fantastic and even if I did not a) who am I and b) the genie is well and truly out of the lamp. No doubt the digital revolution will keep throwing up even more surprises and innovations. I do, however, want to share with you a few concerns. The ease with which we can all publish creates the understandable temptation to publish a lot – and we do. Apparently 6,000 new tweets appear on Twitter every second. That is five million per day. For every fascinating court case finishing at the Old Bailey there must also be a lot of self-indulgent nonsense posted every second of every day. Do not fall into this trap.

Public relations is all about promoting and protecting a business or organisation, its reputation and brand. Public relations helps achieve objectives, such as improving sales by highlighting - for example - an innovative product or assisting recruitment by showing that this is a good place to work. John Lewis' annual announcement of the size of its employees' latest bonus generates almost as much media coverage as stories about the cost of its Christmas advertising campaign.

A genuine news story – such as the John Lewis bonus – provides the opportunity to promote the company and its objectives without having to pay for advertising or even recruitment consultants. The message that this is a good employer comes across loud and clear.

John Lewis is obviously a massive business with thousands of employees who might be the source of a range of genuine news stories (triumphs over tragedies, long service, sky diving for charity) which are all potential material for a press release, tweet or blog. If John Lewis wishes, its PR team can issues these stories which also serve as vehicles to reinforce the company's values and objectives through the use of key messaging.

Public relations only works if readers, viewers or listeners find a story engaging and relevant and then act as a result. They might buy your product, mention your business to a friend or relative or visit your website. Those actions will only be achieved, however, by creating that initial interest.

Digital technology and social media have created accessible platforms to reach your target audience. But without strong content those opportunities are wasted and if you over-indulge – too many tweets or too many press releases to under-staffed newspapers – you could end up damaging your brand and throw away a chance to make a real impact when you really have something to say.

Content is still king – even in the digital age.

Article by Andrew Lambert of Newsmaker PR and Video Production Ltd.

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