PR Learning to Bypass the Media Filter

newspaper-headstonePublic relations has always included business-to-consumer promotions in its arsenal of tools, but a large portion of the PR business has traditionally involved attempting to get stories placed in the media, in the hope that the consumer will then see those stories.  Even highly public promotional stunts were largely, in the end, designed to gain mass media coverage.

But, what happens when the media weakens, and there aren’t enough reporters to cover even the most fascinating stories?

I happened upon two different articles this week that say essentially what I’ve been saying for some time — the answer is to create your OWN media.  Blogging, podcasting, web videos, online news release distribution, Tweeting, and Facebooking all can take your message to your customers in an unfiltered way.

From Advertising Age:

As the body count of magazines and daily newspapers continues to rise and the once-robust news and feature holes of surviving publications shrink along with reporting staffs, some marketers have given up on the traditional path to media coverage: pitching journalists. According to the website Paper Cuts, which tracks layoffs and buyouts at U.S. newspapers, nearly 30,000 reporters have left the industry since the beginning of 2008. So instead of pitching their stories to reporters, a growing number of marketers are directly engaging consumers through original content they and their agencies are creating.

This bleak picture of the media industry is one that I see on a regular basis.  I still do quite a bit of traditional media pitching, in addition to the social media PR tasks that I perform for clients.  While I still have success with my client media pitches, there simply aren’t the same number of opportunities for media placement as there were for PR professionals ten years ago.  The answer is to add to the value of your announcement/story/new product/etc. by utilizing social media tools.

More on the topic comes from Newsvetter, which says the death of the newspaper beat system is a huge opportunity for PR pros to become the experts that reporters so desperately need.  I’ve lived the issues that this article brings up as well.  At medium to large newspapers, there used to be one reporter in charge of health, another in charge of technology, and so on.  Now, one reporter might be in charge of health AND technology AND food AND any number of other things.  Even worse, reporters might be assigned to stories based completely on availability, not on knowledge of a topic.  One suggestion from Newsvetter to make yourself the expert that reporters can rely upon is to utilize corporate blogging:

Minimize the use of the dreaded press release and focus instead on developing your own corporate news channel that distributes information via blogs, Twitter, Facebook, FriendFeed, or some other platform that you control. This will get your information to both consumers and the media.

Solid recommendation.

One thing to bear in mind in this new world of PR is that you can’t ignore the traditional media any more than you can ignore the new social media channels.  The old media is not dead, and I don’t think they’ll ever completely die.  I’m not ready to write their obituary and chisel their headstone, despite the attempt at an amusing picture at the top of this blog post.  The world is changing, however, and PR professionals who want to be successful need to change with it.

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