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Changing Of The Guard

Once, not so long ago, I’d go to a travel PR event and know just about everyone in the room.

In the corner there’d be the grand dames holding forth about their latest trips: to Indiaaaah (“Of course, we stayed with the Maharajah; we’ve known his family for generations”).

In the middle huddle would be the usual cohort of male editors beating their chests, while comparing subscriptions and advertising, or the “exclusives” they’d organised – usually a big cricket or rugby player whom they’d sent on safari (again).

And around them were a gaggle of a dozen or so freelance writers, gliding between editors and PRs, doing their utmost to extract titbits on What Was Hot in the travel world from PRs while trying to strengthen relationships with anyone who might commission them.

One thing that was great about these events is that we all knew what everyone else did – and the sorts of stories our competitors would be after.

Conde Nast Traveller would want the photographic exclusive. The FT would want the first story. The Telegraph would want dozens of hotel reviews. And The Times would want the quirky angle.

All the PR had to do was to divide her clients’ stories up, so everyone got a slice.

Today, it’s not so easy. Not only are there several new magazines on the shelves battling for readers – Suitcase and Cereal, Sidetracked and Boat Magazine – but dozens of websites, and Instagram accounts, and blogs.

Last week, when I walked into a PR event, I knew only four people in a room of about 30. And by the end of the evening it was as clear as mud as to who was going to get the exclusive on the new hotel. There were vloggers and bloggers and film-makers and copywriters, as well as a couple of old-fashioned journalists, all seemingly after the same thing.

Which made me wonder: does any PR out there have any figures on whether the printed press still has the power it did – or whether, in the digital age, the power has shifted?

If you have, please share them. It would be so useful to know whether not only we, as journalists – but you, as PRs – are in need of a strategic rethink. Thank you.

Lisa Grainger has worked for The Times – from the arts and news desks to The Times Magazine and LUXX – since 1995. When she isn’t working as deputy editor of Luxx, Lisa freelances for publications from Departures and Travel + Leisure to The Times, pens a monthly interview with a leading British craftsman for Walpole, and is sustainability editor at Country & Town House. She has won awards for her travel writing on Africa, and is a regular contributor to panels on conservation and luxury travel. Her compilation of African myths and legends, Stories Gogo Told Me, funds schooling for orphaned girls through the CAMFED charity.

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