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The Kernel and PR – A Special Relationship?

Posted by Max Tatton-Brown on 12th April 2012

Love it or hate it, one thing hard to dispute is that The Kernel is very visibly moving things forward in an industry that needs innovation. But it’s still really early days for the venture – and a time where it is beginning to put in place resources and systems for the long haul.

This means appointments like Jason Hesse, from Real Business and Adrian McShane on the tech side to keep the lights on and bring the right experience and ambition.

But it also means capturing and understanding another key component in the editorial mix… PR. When we spoke to Milo back at The Kernel’s launch in December 2011, he phrased the role of PR as putting their editorial team in touch with company founders, academics, thinkers and the like.

How has that changed in the last few months?

Getting to know you

Today, we joined Milo and new editor Jason, at a PR breakfast, designed to shed some light on how agencies can work alongside their new organisation.

The key messages:

  1. Suggest interesting content
  2. Keep it relevant to their readership

Aside from running through who worked on what (sort of like a mix between a job interview and self-help group), that was the key message. But I think it says something more about the ‘special relationship’ that exists between PRs and journalists – and I think the event today was admirable for a different reason.

It opened the kind of feedback loop that in my experience leads to the right relationships between PRs and journalists.

The Special Relationship

Resist the urge to vomit at this but we all know PR is first and foremost about relationships. What The Kernel showed today is that it understands this too – but also gets that if it draws the line respectfully, it becomes PRs’ own fault if they cross over it and break with the guidelines laid out above.

This opportunity is valuable for PRs and almost without exception, missing throughout the media. If PR is about creating those relationships, feedback is the fuel that grows and maintains them. Today, The Kernel opened that loop – something often easier said than done from the PR side.

The other good thing about the feedback dynamic in PR is that good PRs crave it and bad PRs need it. It’s equitable.

Great Expectations

Tellingly, most questions at the table today were quite basic (“Will you write about X kind of company?) – and the answer respectfully simple: “if it’s interesting.”

To me, this just shows the limited feedback PRs generally expect and are used to but also suggests that a page detailing this in text on publications ‘websites is well worth considering. Why don’t more have a PR page, considering the great role it plays in the ecosystem?

The message overall is quite clear – if, as a journalist, you expect PRs to deal with you as you desire, you can’t really believe they will get that just from reading your site. If organisations on both sides of the fence invest a little more time in the special relationship, it benefits everyone.

As for why this is so rare, I’ll leave that as an open thread to get back to another time…

Max Tatton-Brown