Students on the BA and MA Magazine Journalism courses at UCLan were treated to an insightful lecture by guest speaker and public relations expert Ralph Savage where he set about demystifying the ‘dark arts’ of PR.
Mr Savage began his journalism experience while at Leeds University studying for a BA in Broadcast Journalism, graduating in 1999. He worked as news editor on the university’s weekly newspaper, and helped scoop the coveted Student Newspaper of the Year award at the Guardian Media Awards in 1999.
With today’s students well aware of the competitive marketplace for newly qualified journalists, Ralph pointed out that it wasn’t so different when he was looking around: “I must have filled out 60 job applications, and I got one interview and one job,” he said.
Initially employed as a staff writer with Incisive Media’s Financial Newsletter division, Mr Savage spent the next four years working across a wide range of financial titles until 2003, when he jumped ship to Post Magazine, one of the oldest and most well-respected business magazines in the world, where he was news editor for four years. He still regularly writes for Post Magazine on a freelance basis, although his real focus at the moment is RTS Media, a PR agency that he set up in 2007 in Manchester.
While RTS Media mainly represents lawyers, barristers and insurance agencies, he said “the stories that come out of them are surprisingly varied and interesting”. He continued: “My job is to understand what my clients want and need but also to know what will be of interest to the newspapers.” In his speech, Mr Savage was keen to show the relationship between PR agencies and journalists on both newspapers and magazines. He said: “News values cross over the divide between PR companies and newspapers,” adding, “as long as you expect that PR agents are coming to you with an agenda, there can be a mutually beneficial relationship. If the PR industry didn’t exist, journalism would suffer.”
After his speech, Mr Savage also carried out a real-life press conference on behalf of one of his clients with students, who then had the task of writing a news story for a regional paper. Everyone on the MA Magazine Journalism course found his astute speech invaluable and, as Mr Savage himself said, “PR is not necessarily something that’s covered in journalism courses”, adding he would “encourage you to use the PR industry as a good source of stories”.
“RTS Media has just launched its new Facebook page,” Mr Savage concluded. “To find useful tips and for an opportunity to debate about the media, journalism, everything and anything, log in, ‘like’ the page and say what’s on your mind.”