PR professionals have long understood what traditional media seems to just now realize – they are no longer as influential as they used to be, and only one small part of a much bigger picture.
“Mainstream media” is, quite frankly, a misnomer. Traditional media sources once held in high regard long ago lost credibility and audience share, and there’s very little that’s “mainstream” about them anymore. Although they tried to adapt, they couldn’t figure out a sustainable business model: a platform that offers instantaneous information and generates advertising revenues. They’ve foundered for years, while alternatives gained in readership, and therefore credibility. Now those same traditional media outlets are shocked that the presidential candidate they endorsed lost, despite their best efforts. They misjudged their ability to influence. They discounted “fake news” sites and only now, in their election postmortem coverage, have they had an epiphany: maybe we don’t matter.
In the world of public relations, this evolution isn’t news. We’ve known for a long time that traditional media just isn’t sexy anymore. And our struggle to juggle the dissolving traditional media with the rise of social media, influencers and content generators is more complex and requires more time investment now than it ever has. We still work hard to secure placements in traditional outlets (and if they don’t create a live link to your story it’s worthless), but add to our strategy the pursuit of relevant online placements, as well as the holy grail of social media: a Skimm mention, CNN or Buzzfeed Snapchat story or Refinery29 hit. Here are a few observations to keep in mind when initiating your next earned media effort:
Be open to multiple tactics. News coverage is not going to be the result of one catch-all approach. Rather, myriad solutions are deployed to target third-party interest: emails, phone calls, tweets, media drops, photo ops, more calls, text messages, and quite often prayer. Our targets are always changing and they respond to different tactics. What worked last year, may not work this year. It’s common for them engage with the brand directly and not the intermediary PR person – so make sure all your systems are working in concert.
Understand the time investment. The struggle is real. The effects felt by the mainstream media are issues we as PR strategists have faced for the past several years – since the advent of blogging. There are limitless ways for people to get information and we have to try to weed through all that noise to place our stories with the most credible, most-read sources. This takes time and time means money. Don’t be cheap and ask what you can get for a nickel.
Procuring your own content is critical. Put time and energy into the development of robust information. It may not be a 500-word dissertation, but provide the relevant, distinctive facts about it – things that will pique the interest of media and influencers. Invest in infographics and photography. Make everything easy to email, consume and republish.
Are you willing to pay to play? The separation of editorial and advertising has been blurry for years. The media is willing to toe the line, and often is brutally honest about it. If you question whether an outlet does pay to play, just ask. They might.
Finally, consider your team. Give us news we can use. Be responsive and patient. And most importantly, please recognize the effort that goes into making those incredible news placements happen.
We love to make you look good. So help us help you.
Photo via kaboompics.com