The Symbiotic Relationship and Impacts of Journalism, PR and Advertising

Term Paper, 2015

22 Pages, Grade: A














The media is the most powerful social institution in the world. It empowers, influences and, sometimes, manipulates public perception regarding specific socio-political topics. There are numerous forms of media including news media, entertainment media and commercial media. The two most powerful media are undoubtedly the news media and commercial media because of their ability to affect, sway and manipulate public perception due to the numerous avenues through which they promulgate different content to the public. Journalism is the core of news media while advertising is at the core of commercial media. Each discipline interacts with the other to inform the public and influence their perceptions regarding different topics. On the commercial front, the two disciplines relate to organizational public relations by playing critical roles in the development of an organization’s public image as a social entity much like an individual. Through journalism’s role as the fourth estate, an organization can safeguard the spread of information between itself and the public thus build a positive public image that enhances the effectiveness of its marketing or advertising campaigns because of the goodwill inherent from the public’s trust in the organization.

In order to understand the interrelationship between public relations, journalism and advertising, one must first conduct a detailed analysis of inter-relatable concepts that define the relationship they share.


Since its inceptions, journalism has played a critical role in society. Christians et al. (2009) define journalism as “the construction and publication of accounts of contemporary events, persons or circumstances of public significance or interest, based on information acquired from reliable sources.” Historically, the role of journalism was to bring about equity in society by “fairly representing and empowering” the many social groups seeking recognition (Ward, 2008). As such, the liberal theory of the press became the preeminent feature of journalism. The liberal theory argues that, “a free and independent press [is] necessary for the protection of the liberties of the public and the promotion of liberal reform” (Ward, 2008). Hence, the purpose of journalism in society has been to disseminate information, interpret events, act as watchdog on power, advocate for reform or certain causes, educate and empower the public as citizens and guide public opinion in order to serve (or propagandize for) the party or the state (Ward, 2008).

Journalism, as a discipline, entails several different concepts. Two of the most stressed after concepts are journalistic integrity and ethics. In truth, these concepts are interrelated and have tremendous significance to the discipline because they guide journalists in their activities and role as public informers. They represent the means through which journalists earn and exercise their power over the public because they determine and influence the measure of public trust invested in each respective journalist. Hence, understanding these two concepts highlights the impact and significance journalism has on society.


Journalistic integrity refers to the ability of a journalist to appear independent and unbiased in the reporting of information to the public. It guides journalists in their selection and framing of information for public consumption. It guides them in producing information that has substantial evidence to make it factual thus meaningful for the public. Throughout its history, journalistic integrity has determined the extent the public trusts the information provided by specific reporters as independent and unbiased witnesses to social events. For everything reported, a journalist must have irrefutable proof of the validity of the information or suffer the loss of public trust in subsequent reports from the journalist and the organization he or she represents. According to Carpentier (2007), “factual accuracy is considered vital to the journalist’s professional activity, as it is with ‘no doubt the most sacred belief held among journalists worldwide.’” For journalists, the challenge of acquiring information is less significant than the challenge of justifying the interpretation formulated. The case of Gary Webb best exemplifies the significance of factual accuracy in journalism. His claim towards the involvement of the CIA in drug trafficking within the United States earned him public ridicule from his counterparts in the media because of the circumstantial nature of the information he presented as sufficient proof. Consequently, the news agency he worked for terminated his employment and his career in journalism officially ended (Thussu, 2007). Even though the CIA eventually validated the claims Webb made, his reputation had suffered irrecoverably. Without sufficient and convincing evidence to justify a claim, a journalist loses his ability to inform the public. Hence, factual accuracy in information acquired and disseminated is an expected principle for every journalist among his peers and the society he serves.

A second critical feature of journalistic integrity is autonomy. In this case, autonomy refers to the measure of independence and control accorded to a journalist by the organization he works for and the state authorities governing the society. The autonomy of journalists is one of the most coveted principles in journalism because it prevents biasness in the disseminated information. Through autonomous reporting, a journalist can provide accurate and impartial information about specific social issues from the perspective of an observer rather than a participating agent in the overall debate. Unfortunately, the structure of traditional capitalist media organizations exposes journalists to numerous internal and external pressures such as the need for professional employment. Carpentier (2007) argues that, “protective strategies to negotiate the employer-employee relationship and to prevent infringements on journalistic autonomies” from an organizational perspective are necessary for the sake of both the journalist and the organization he or she represents. Organizational pressure on journalists undermines public trust in the news agency as well as the journalists’ ability to deliver independent and unbiased information (Ward, 2008).

On the other hand, journalism ethics dictates which information is suitable for public consumption. According to Ward (2008), “the issues of journalism ethics include the limits of free speech, accuracy and bias, fairness and privacy, the use of graphic images, conflicts of interest, the representation of minorities, and the role of journalism.” Each issue determines the manner in which journalists package information for the public while taking into consideration the inherent demographic, ethnic, cultural and socioeconomic differences in their audience. As such, an emerging concept in journalism is segregating the dimensions of journalism ethics to suit the regional ethics of the society it serves. For instance, Western ethics differs tremendously from the tradition of ubuntuism in African societies and the social collectivism practiced in Asian societies (Ward, 2008). Consequently, individualistic reportage of sensitive issues negatively affects the reception of the information within these regions. Even though journalists have traditionally perceived the code of ethics they observe as parochial, the globalization of these ethics cannot be denied, especially when one considers the similar constructs employed in compartmentalizing information for different regional consumers.

The fact is globalization has transformed local news agencies to strive towards informing their audiences in the same manner and ability as international news agencies in order to provide the same type of coverage. As a result, the regurgitation of information from global news agencies among local agencies has increased exponentially thus rapidly changing the dimensions of journalism ethics. According to Witschge and Nygren (2009), journalists today reproduce thrice as many copies of global and regional news stories as they did 20 years ago. An estimated 60% of printed news stories and 34% of those broadcasted originate from prepackage news agencies such as Reuters (Witschge and Nygren, 2009). With such high levels of reproduction of news and information, journalism ethics is under tremendous attack and subject to manipulation for the exploitation of regional conditions. For the most part, expecting the practice of Western journalism ethics in non-Western regions is unfair and detrimental to the role of journalism in society (Ward, 2008).


Public relations (PR) (or corporate communication) refer to the management of information between an organization and the public (Michaelson, Wright and Stacks, 2012). It defines the type and amount of information an organization, as a social entity, shares with the public in order to acquire human-like qualities that define its character as an organization, such as integrity, that enhance the manner in which the public interacts with the institution. The activities take many different forms including media releases and kits, video new releases (VNR), blogs and tweets. PR has three distinct roles: representation, dialogue and advisory (Michaelson, Wright and Stacks, 2012). Representation refers to the public portrayal of the organization through all its employees while dialogue refers to the negotiant role PR representatives fulfill in promoting the organization’s goals and objectives. The advisory role refers to the intermediary role of PR in advising management on strategies that would promote the public image of the company thus inadvertently increase its sales, productivity and revenue upon securing public support. Hence, it entails all dimensions of an organization’s interaction with the public that result or require communication, planned or unexpected. Planned interactions include all forms of production, marketing, retail and distribution as well as corporate social responsibility. Unplanned interactions include economic scandals, innovations and other unexpected activities or communications that cast the organization into the public limelight.

As a discipline, PR entails numerous different concepts. For the purposes of this discussion, the paper shall focus on returns on investment in PR and the potential for public diplomacy through PR.


In PR, Return on Investment (ROI) refers to the cumulative benefits inherent from conducting communication activities that promote the organization’s goal against their total costs. The goal or purpose of PR is to provide the company with a strategic advantage, measured in profit, against its competitors through its social image or save it some costs. Quantifying the success or failure of PR campaigns is difficult because of the intangible effect communication has on people, not to mention the lengthy duration of some PR campaigns. When heard, read or seen it is impossible to determine what a person chooses to do with information. Even though research shows that communication effectiveness is a leading indicator of organizational financial performance, no studies have yet established a conclusive causal relationship (Watson and Zerfass, 2011). However, the tangible costs of conducting a PR campaign are always clear on budgets and annual reviews. In fact, contemporary literature indicates that 88% of international companies with PR departments and campaigns desire ROI measuring tools for PR while 65% seek such tools to determine and measure the effectiveness of PR campaigns in their organization (Watson and Zerfass, 2011). Similarly, PR and corporate communication practitioners are under consistent pressure to provide tangible measures of their effectiveness in terms of improving company performance and outcome. Hence, it is difficult to put realistic and credible financial value to the results of PR campaigns (Watson and Zerfass, 2011).

In response to this predicament, many PR practitioners propose the use of non-financial objective and outcomes as quasi-ROI indicators. Rather than measuring the return on the invested monetary value used in communication activities over one financial year, they propose the measurement of the effectiveness of the activities through the analysis of preset goals and outcomes (Watson and Zerfass, 2011). In this way, the effectiveness of the PR monetary costs can be offset through a measure of the amassed benefits in terms of increased revenues, profits and reduced costs in which PR was directly involved.

From an economic perspective, ROI from PR is only credible but not discernible from improved organizational performance and outcome. Michaelson, Wright and Stacks (2012) argue that the best way to measure ROI on PR is to evaluate the effect of strategically released communication activities during the campaign’s lifespan. Using the three generic objectives of PR campaigns (informational, motivational and behavioral), they argue that an organization can measure the ROI of its PR campaign by using benchmarks to measure each successive objective.


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The Symbiotic Relationship and Impacts of Journalism, PR and Advertising
( Atlantic International University )
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relationsship, journalism, public, relations, advertising, impact, society
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Felix Ale (Author), 2015, The Symbiotic Relationship and Impacts of Journalism, PR and Advertising, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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