Several years ago, while working for a major corporation, I developed a deep appreciation for the part of my job that involves acting as an information gatekeeper. Though some may have viewed that as a layer of red tape, it significantly bolstered my ability to protect the brand and deliver a consistent message.
Just as I was never asked to make store-level decisions (due to my lack of knowledge and experience about that specific job), store managers werent asked to make media-communication decisions. In this way, everyone focused on what they did best, and through collaboration, improved outcomes.
In short, my role as an information gatekeeper allowed everyone to remain attentive to their responsibilities and be smarter about what, how and if they communicated with the media.
In recent years, the explosion of social media has made the PR gatekeeping process increasingly difficult as more people than ever self-broadcast ideas, news and opinions. Many of us trained professionals have sat in the peanut gallery and watched as others have suffered grave consequences over what theyve said publicly in moments of unrestrained communication. We have felt for the PR teams left to mop up the messes.
But while some say the traditional gatekeeping role is becoming less relevant, I believe its still evolving. I suggest that it is more important than ever, as companies work to deliver lasting messages and protect reputations.
As PR looks for innovative ways to keep pace with the new media, gatekeeping takes on a new look. For example, many companies have proactively added social-media policies to communication guidelines that allow and train employees to become brand ambassadors via blogging and interacting on Facebook and Twitter, to name a few platforms.
The gatekeeping function remains critical, offering benefits for both the company and individual employee. For starters, it allows PR practitioners to identify and leverage stories that strengthen the companys overall message and mission. I love when people call me with story ideas. While not all ideas become front-page news, some may be perfect for a blog. Regardless, the process allows us to assess both relevance and opportunity, and it ensures the companys ability to tell a meaningful story that builds reputation and brand.
When employees seek PR input for story ideas, or direct journalists to a single point of contact for help, they protect themselves from possible communication missteps. PR pros will help determine the best-suited spokesperson for the interview, identify the most appropriate approach for message success and help navigate the unseen pitfalls.
Gatekeepers should always be reliable and accessible by employees and reporters (and bloggers!) alike. Sources who understand news cycles and related needs, and consistently deliver relevant information in a quick and fair manner, are appreciated, if not respected. But gatekeeping is so much more than that in todays changing media environment. At its core, it must involve a highly experienced public relations executive to coordinate and strategize how to stay relevant, while not jeopardizing the companys reputation.
Jeannette Duwe, owner of Duwe Public Relations and a former journalist. email@example.com