November 1, 2011
Although this may come as a surprise to many, practicing media relations today is in many ways no different to when I started my career back in the early Nineties. Ok, maybe some things have changed, but I remain adamant that the basics remain the same.
What has changed has been due to two significant developments: the global economic decline and the social media revolution. And they have both ultimately had one overriding consequence – to force us PRs to become much better at our jobs.
Every day, we face the challenges from the four cornerstones of media relations: speed, intelligence, creativity and relationships. Here are my views on how each look in today’s environment.
The proliferation of social media channels, mobile devices and the digitisation of content has created an environment of high frequency media relations. It’s always been important to get stories out quickly and have a finger on the pulse. Today the pulse beats much faster. We’re in a real-time news environment. Social media has also brought 24/7 scrutiny, putting transparency at the heart of communications. Media relations has to adapt with opportunity spotting, openness, crises response and trend monitoring
Today, almost everyone realises the importance of media communication. That means the battle for reporters’ mindset is tougher. You are not the only one with a proposition anymore. Generally, there are fewer reporters around which also makes the pitch harder. Knowing the true value of the proposition and how it fits in the marketplace is critical. Then, match it with the right media.
The challenging pitch and the proliferation of digital and mobile communication channels demand greater creativity. You have to stand out and there are significant platforms to stand on. Stunts, games, infographics, audio interviews and podcasts are all becoming standard practice. Get thinking.
Ultimately, as with any form of communications, media relations is about having people skills. Knowing the basics: what people like, what makes their job easier and when to call them. Meeting reporters socially to get an understanding of this is still arguably an important part of media relations and if you aren’t doing it well, what are you doing? But, the days of purely social champagne meetings are over. Reporters have to, more than ever, justify the time out of the office. You need to truly understand how your proposition (or multiple client propositions if you work for an agency) is relevant to the reporters and the audience they are writing for. Establish yourself as a credible resource for the reporter by securing one client interest on an ongoing basis – then you’re on their radar as a trustworthy contact. After that, it’s easier to pitch a relationship meeting to discuss other propositions as well.
But, what do you think? Is this a fair and accurate summary of how media relations looks today? Are these still the four cornerstones of the industry, or have they changed, or even multiplied? We’d love to hear your thoughts.