I’ve had first-hand experience of the many challenges facing newsrooms up and down the country. Not a week seems to go by now without the news that, yet another title has folded or had to ‘reassess’ its offering because it’s no longer commercially viable. There is still a huge demand for an informative and well-written copy – but the way readers choose to access this is rapidly changing.
The increase of online news and growth of social media is often blamed for the decline. And it’s easy to see why. People can now access free, almost real-time information at the click of a mouse. By the time the same information is published the next day, it’s already out of date.
There’s no doubt that this changing landscape has affected the relationship between PR & media. Although, I’d argue, not to the extent some may think.
You can certainly make a case for the declining power of the traditional press. The growth of ‘owned’ content allows companies and organisations to use their own websites and social media channels to speak directly to their target audiences – bypassing the need to rely on the whim of a reporter.
PRs also now spend more time engaging with other so-called ‘gatekeepers’ and influential online communities as a positive endorsement from a high-profile blogger, Instagrammer, Pinner or YouTuber can be extremely influential.
The importance of SEO and consistently appearing at the top of Google rankings is also arguably now more important than spending time and money on securing a one-off double page spread in a national broadsheet.
But I don’t think we should call time on good old-fashioned media relations just yet.
Social media also means PRs must be much more responsive to journalists’ needs. It’s now a 24/7 operation where a throwaway comment can be turned into front-page news.
Most importantly (crisis comms aside) many clients, MDs and chief executives still want to see their name (or the name of their business or organisation) in print or on TV. Third party endorsement through the media remains highly valued and offers credibility that ‘owned’ channels just don’t have. Certainly, here in our part of the world, the East Anglian Daily Times and Eastern Daily Press remain highly trusted and influential sources of news.
Until this position changes, newspapers and traditional broadcast channels will continue to play an important role in any PR strategy. It’s up to us in the industry to grab the opportunity.
Starved of time and increasingly in need of decent material to fill news pages, as well as for websites, blogs, podcasts, and vodcasts – if you pitch the right story at the right time, then journalists should bite your hand off.
That’s not to say they’ll accept any story. With reporters so short of time, it won’t take them long to switch off and move on if you don’t immediately grab their interest.
But suggest content that’s of real value to their readers and you should quickly have their full attention. Providing additional photos, infographics, videos and audio to inform, surprise or entertain – anything to make the journalist’s life that little bit easier – should seal the deal.
So, while there is no doubt attitudes are changing, mainstream media, for the moment at least, retain their influence and power. However, to make the most impact, PRs today undoubtedly need to provide a fully integrated approach where ‘traditional’ and ‘digital’ work side by side.
Get in touch with Genesis to discuss your needs for PR in the digital world.