The changing media landscape has prompted some to question the value of media relations. The rise of social media and digital marketing, combined with the demise of newspapers, massive staff cuts at traditional media outlets and decline in trust in the media have even caused some to proclaim the “death of media relations.”
PR veterans take issue with that assertion. Media relations is not about to go extinct, but it has evolved, they say.
Essential for Success
“Media relations is not dead, on the contrary, it is essential to the success of public relations programs,” says Kate Finley, founder of Belle Communications. Media relations can increase awareness, help increase sales, and promote key messages. “It’s also just plain sexy. Clients still love seeing their name in local, trade and national media outlets – especially when they receive feedback from their network as a result,” Finley adds.
The stigma of “fake news” may cling to the popular consciousness for several years to come, but sophisticated audiences will continue to depend on reliable sources, which will only further demonstrate their value in a growing sea of misinformation, says Jade Faugno, vice president at Intermarket Communications. “It’s up to us as PR professionals to use all the tools in our arsenal to reach intended constituencies through trustworthy news sources,” Faugno writes in Forbes.
Most PR pros believe media relations can achieve worthwhile success – if PR can adapt to changes, reveals a survey by PR News and its Media Relations Working Group. Almost a third (27 percent) say their media relations tactics and strategies have remained mostly the same; 58 percent have altered their approach “somewhat” and 16 percent say they have significantly altered their overall approach to media relations. The figures suggest PR has room for improvement.
New Avenues for Media Relations
Most PR pros don’t take advantage of the new avenues for media pitching, asserts communications trainer Michael Smart. Most follow the same practices of the past, mainly sending news releases to a long list of contacts. The only recent innovation is that email replaced blast-fax software. Effective PR, Smart says, entails researching a narrowly targeted set of influencers, using social media and other platforms to win attention well before requesting media coverage, and customizing pitches to each recipient. PR can also advance media relations through these strategies:
Influencers. Large numbers of website editors, bloggers and other social media influencers have supplanted diminishing numbers of traditional journalists to some extent. Savvy PR professionals turn to their relationship-building skills to develop connections with bloggers and other influencers as well as journalists.
Social media networking. While email remains journalists’ favorite communications channel, many engage with PR pros on social media, most notably Twitter. Some journalists answer messages on Twitter faster than through other communications and social platforms. PR professionals can also obtain valuable insights into what journalists may be working on by following their Twitter feeds.
Owned media. PR relies more on owned media such as blogs and online corporate newsrooms. Rather than just posting press releases, the best media centers employ brand journalism to create content that feels more like objective reporting than corporate marketing jargon. Besides reaching the public directly, digital press rooms offer an excellent media relations tool, as reporters often visit the sites to research articles.
PR measurement. Brand awareness was traditionally difficult to measure. However, measuring media relations benefits is now more attainable due to advancements in PR measurement tools and dashboards that can integrate data from a range of communications channels, including social media. PR measurement is essential for proving PR’s value to corporate management and PR agency clients.
“As traditional media dwindle and the lines between marketing disciplines continue to converge, it is crucial to position PR as a revenue driver, not a cost center,” writes Amy Laski, president of Felicity.
Bottom Line: Media relations remains alive and well despite premature cries about its death. PR pros who update their media relations strategies to the new digital media landscape are most likely to thrive.
William J. Comcowich founded and served as CEO of CyberAlert LLC, the predecessor of Glean.info. He is currently serving as Interim CEO and member of the Board of Directors. Glean.info provides customized media monitoring, media measurement and analytics solutions across all types of traditional and social media.