Jodi recently asked me if I would be willing to share my thoughts on how media relations has changed over the past decade or so. Of course I said yes, although I wasn’t sure if it was a compliment on my expertise, or an indication that I’m becoming the old man in the office….
Regardless, Jodi was on to something. Media relations has certainly changed over time. That’s not to say the changes are necessarily good or bad; things are simply different. And like the grey hair multiplying in my beard, there is a silver lining to everything. Here are three ways I believe media relations has changed over the past decade, and more importantly, how to capitalize on the new opportunities they present.
1. There are Fewer Print Publications
Print magazines haven’t gone the way of the buffalo quite yet, but some days they appear close to being put on the protected species list, particularly trade magazines. Ten years ago nearly every industry had at least half a dozen trade publications focused on various aspects of the industry. Some dealt with strategy while others were tabloids focused primarily on new product offerings. Now you’re lucky if there are two per industry that are still successful.
The Silver Lining
There are a few. First, you can develop stronger relationships with these publications. This requires you to be acutely focused on the story you can tell and being clear on what you can offer the publication.
It has also opened the door for companies to be their own publisher in many respects. Now, instead of relying on the media to tell your story (earned media), social media platforms and blogs allow brands to sidestep the media to reach an engaged audience and share keen insights (owned media). The key is to focus on the readers and make sure they get something out of following your company’s content. If your writing is overly promotional, it will quickly get passed by.
2. More Turnover Means Less Expertise & Fewer Resources
In a way this is counter-intuitive, as you might think the best writers would wind up writing for whichever publications remain. However, in many cases reporters and editors have simply left the journalism industry behind in search of greener pastures as public relations professionals, industry analysts or independent consultants. Others have simply decided to choose a new career path and follow their passions. Oftentimes what remains are fairly inexperienced journalists, or experienced journalists covering a brand new beat. And they don’t have the support staff working behind the scenes that they once did.
The Silver Lining
First, this requires you to update your media lists regularly, as contacts are constantly changing. But in today’s world you have a much better opportunity to get feature coverage if you can offer more than just a story or expert opinion. Telling a reporter or editor you can also provide high-quality images, have outside experts willing to speak to them, or know of ways to tie into online coverage such as an infographic is music to their ears.
3. More Ways to Follow and Interact with the Media than Ever Before
It used to be very time consuming to establish a relationship with journalists and get insight into what type of information they’re seeking for upcoming stories. But today you can follow and interact with them on Twitter and other social media sites, where they often outline the exact story angle they are working on and actively request people to contact them if they have useful insights to contribute. There is also a growing list of resources such as HARO (Help a Reporter Out) and ProfNet that provide requests from journalists on a regular basis. Some publications have even taken their editorial calendar process to new heights by creating pages where they outline upcoming stories, the type of information they need and the deadline they need it by.
The Silver Lining
Everything I just wrote is a silver lining, provided brands understand the trade-off for this window into the reporters’ world is being available at the drop of a hat. In many cases you don’t have the luxury of waiting for an executive to get back from a business trip to participate in an interview. Heck, you often can’t wait until tomorrow. Brands that have “instant access” to their executives and experts will give themselves a much better opportunity for success with media relations than those that don’t.
Those are just three of the notable ways I’ve witnessed media relations changing over the past decade. In many respects the fundamentals are the same, but the game has evolved. You could really write a whole book on this subject, so I’m sure I left off some key transformations. So let me have it, what did I miss?
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