Companies work to find their place in the changing ecosystem — some more effectively than others.
For those of us who have been active in the marketing communications industry over the past few decades, there’s been a sea change in how the industry operates — not least in the realm of PR and media relations.
One of the underlying reasons for this change is the dramatic shift that’s happened in the field of journalism. Traditional media companies which have long relied on professional reporters and editorial contributors have been dealing with a range of existential threats. Print circulation has sagged while audiences have fragmented over a plethora of digital content publishers — most of which offer news and information free of charge.
At the same time, publishers’ revenues from advertising have plummeted as the media inventory has expanded to encompass the new digital content publishers. The bottom-line impact of these twin developments is that it has become much more difficult for traditional media companies to employ the same number of staff reporters; indeed, many publishers have shrunk their newsrooms while relying increasingly on independent contributors and freelancers to fill in the gaps.
But the situation gets even more complicated thanks to the evolution of digital media and the explosive growth of self-publishing platforms. The reality is that there’s a new class of authors who are increasingly publishing from their own platforms, without being involved with any of the major media outlets.
In such a world, the notion of PR departments simply keeping in close touch with a limited number of key journalists as the most effective way of gaining earned media coverage seems almost quaint.
And it gets even more problematic when considering how much easier it is for businesses to prepare and disseminate PR news. At their best, PR pitches rely on the same tools as marketing in general: profiling the audience; personalizing the news pitch, and so forth.
The problem is, according to the U.S. Bureau of Census, there are now more than six PR pros for every journalist. This means that more PR news releases than ever are hitting the inboxes of far fewer journalists and reporters.
Is it any wonder that PR news released by companies is so often being ignored?
According to a recent survey of ~1,000 journalists by PR Newswire, the following aspects of PR pitches are the most annoying to reporters and journalists:
- Too much overt “marketing” in the pitch
- Lack of relevant or useful content
- Unclear or misleading subject lines on e-emails
- Insufficient news detail
On the other hand, some aspects help in a PR pitch, including:
- High-resolution photography
- Video clips
In today’s PR landscape, obtaining earned media is more difficult than ever. These days, not only do you need a great story to tell, you need to craft the perfect narrative. And even then, you might never get the news covered by a so-called “Tier 1” publication.
But missing out on Tier 1 coverage isn’t necessarily the kiss of death. Sometimes the lower tier represents the best targeted audience to receive news from companies. Moreover, by employing low-cost self-publishing tools, a decent social media strategy plus some basic search engine optimization, it’s actually possible to build an audience and garner as many well-targeted readers as those elusive Tier 1 pubs might be able to deliver.
In the new world of PR, the “tried and true” avenues to earned media coverage aren’t getting the job done. But there are more routes than ever to get the news out instead of having to channel your efforts to go through the gate-keepers of yore.