Press coverage of your company is important for a variety of reasons. Living in a data driven society, however, we tend to look only at the numbers, in this case, the number of articles and not what's in those articles.
We need to shift our thinking away from quantity and focus more on the quality.
Focus needs to be put on several factors including:
You might be stoked for a front page feature article in the business section of a top tier daily newspaper, magazine or blog but if your company/product/executive is being associated with a negative topic, does it deserve the same value as a positive mention in a smaller, more targeted publication that all of your prospective customers, partners and investors read?
It's time to focus on quality over quantity.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is everywhere these days -- from our phones and cars to advertising and healthcare. There have also been ongoing debates regarding AI taking over journalism, making newsrooms around the world leaner than they already are.
The field of public relations has also been targeted by AI, but like with journalism, there is a larger debate around the lines between artificial intelligence and human intelligence. While data continues to be a larger contributor to the stories being told (earnings, growth, etc), one critical element to all stories is the human perspective. AI is getting incredibly impressive. Sure, computers can quickly spit out sports scores and write up a brief article on the most recent economic numbers. And Alexa certainly can have a sassy sense of humor at times but it is going to be a while before the human element -- the emotions of a story -- can truly be conveyed by a computer.
Until that time, we will still need journalists and PR professionals to wade through the numbers and dig into the human intelligence and emotion of the stories that need to be told.
As often as we say that PR isn't magic and that PR professionals aren't magicians, the more you think about it, we actually are.
Whether you'd like to admit it, we are all lovers of magic on some level. It triggers all sorts of emotions -- the mystery, confusion, awe and even frustration when you are determined to figure out how a particular illusion was performed. At first glance, most magical illusions seem simple, with most getting the standard "Oh that's easy. I could do that!" reaction.
But when you are given the playing cards, the magic metal rings, the three shells and a pea or knotted rope, the illusion doesn't seem as simple, does it?
That's because there are a lot of moving parts -- as well as a lot of practice and expertise -- that goes on in the background to make those illusions seem so simple.
Now, do not confuse illusions with PR spin, please! Illusions are more about making something complex look easy for anyone to do at a glance, while PR spin is just dishonest and sketchy.
It is easy for those not in PR to read various stories in newspapers, magazines and blogs and say "I could place a story like this" or "well, if my competitor/partner can get a story like this, it can't be that difficult."
True, sometimes getting an amazing profile story or mention in a high profile publication is just plain luck. The reporter stumbled upon the company or product and personally fell in love with it. Or timing just worked in their favor.
But more times than not, there is quite a bit that goes on behind the scenes -- sometimes for months -- before that one story publishes. Just like a magician practices shuffling and cutting cards for hours a day to make that one performance flawless.
So while we tend to say "PR isn't magic" or we (PR pros) "aren't magicians", in fact, we are very much so. Just no one sees all the work that goes into it all. And that's the point.
We all want press coverage. That's just natural.
But as we've discussed here before, not all press coverage is good. And not all press coverage will drive your overall business objectives. Which is why it is absolutely critical to be strategic on where you and your team invest time and resources as it pertains to media relations.
As a small start-up (and this can be the case for larger organizations too), your reaction may be to take any and all inbound press opportunities. But it is important to ask yourself what impact that story could have on the business.
Is that outlet's audience our target customer demographic? Do our investors read that publication regularly? How has that blog covered our industry and competitors in the past?
Not only complete the due diligence on all inbound press inquiries to make sure they are worth your communications and leadership teams' time, but also do some proactive research to ensure your teams are on the same page around priorities.
What outlets are "must-haves," meaning they cover your industry and competitors regularly and are a must-read for your customers, partners and investors? What publications would be "nice to have," meaning they are stretch goals for the business either because they are top-tier (and everyone wants a mention), tend to cover just outside your industry, or cover a very wide range of topics?
Create your lists and then work backwards on what storylines might work for those particular publications and what pieces of the puzzle (metrics, customer testimonials, third party research, etc.) you might need to place the right story.
But do your research and make sure story opportunities are going to help drive your business objectives, not just get a story for the sake of getting a story.
There comes a time for every company and every PR professional, where a story has published and we don't like how it has turned out. Sometimes, the reporter decides to take the story in a completely different direction than originally discussed and it may not put the business or its leaders in the best light. Other times, the story is just downright inaccurate. And then there are times when it is just a difference of opinion.
PR professionals spend a lot of time combing through these stories, ensuring their accuracy. We have absolutely no problem reaching out to a journalist to correct errors in their reporting. And most reporters appreciate it when we flag these errors so that they give their readers the most accurate perspective possible.
But we also try to be mindful of these reporters' time when we reach out for corrections, only flagging actual factual inaccuracies. If it is a difference of opinion or issues with wording, more likely than not, it isn't worth pushing a reporter for changes. Why? Because 9 times out of 10, they won't make the changes and, even worse, they will just get irritated. That irritation could possibly cost the PR pro their relationship with the reporter, and the company future stories as well.
It just isn't worth it.
We all want stories about our businesses to be positive, but we also need to be realistic. If you are looking for your company message and narrative to be published word for word, you aren't looking for PR, you are looking for advertising. And there's a difference.
Newsroom staffs have continued to dwindle over the last few years while the demand for breaking news and 'round the clock coverage has skyrocketed. This has put tremendous stress on the remaining reporters and their editors, who have to weed through hundreds and possibly thousands of pitches and news announcements on a daily basis. They have to determine what is critical to cover immediately, what stories are interested but can wait, and those they just don't have the time or interest in. Reporters now typically have to submit a few and sometimes dozens of stories daily. They aren't able to truly deep-dive into many stories or passion projects.
To help relieve this pressure from their staffs, editors started opening up contributor networks, giving outside, non-staff experts the opportunity to share their perspective on timely topics, while helping add more content to their sites.
This was well-received for quite some time, what seemed to be a win-win for media and brands alike. Media got the supply of content needed to fill the demand requested by readers, while thought leaders, executives and brands were able to share their specific perspectives on the news of the day.
But recently there has been some backlash. Media outlets like TechCrunch have rescinded their contributed network offers, citing the amount of articles they receive that they "strongly suspected where ghost-written by PR or really had no business being given the platform."
While I'm not a fan of blaming the entire quality issue on PR, I understand the delicate balance outlets are trying to achieve. As a result, these outlets and probably many more will overcorrect and severely limit or completely eliminate their contributed content programs. In turn, businesses and their leaders will need to find different and some possibly new avenues to consider as part of their PR and thought leadership programs.
No need for much concern though. There are more platforms than ever before for people to publish and share their viewpoints beyond traditional media outlets and blogs -- LinkedIn, Medium, to name a few.
Some may few these platforms as the "easy way" to get content published and out into the public sphere, believing that this isn't "real coverage". True. Media coverage in traditional outlets will now mostly pertain to news.
But if you are wanting to focus on thought leadership, publishing on these alternative platforms and having a well executed socialization plan in place can make your readership and impact as strong as a what you may have hoped to achieved with a previous guest post on a traditional blog.
Having just survived the Hallmark holiday of Valentine's Day, whether we have significant others or prefer our single status, relationships have been a hot topic. As such, it is the perfect time to talk about a different kind of relationship: that between PR pros and journalists.
This type of relationship is one that you might see on a soap opera or primetime drama. Some times it is complete perfection, other times it is in complete disarray and then there are the times in between. And like all relationships, they vary based on the people and scenarios involved.
Some PR pros absolutely love working closely with journalists while others would rather do any other part of the job than deal with media relations. Similarly, there are journalists who make it their mission in life to talk about their hatred for "PR flacks" while others appreciate what good PR pros can offer.
When it comes down to it, we all need to come to an agreement -- we need each other.
PR pros need journalists to distribute news about their company and clients. Journalists need PR pros and the executives they support to provide context and perspective on the stories they are trying to tell. There will be scenarios where the story doesn't go in the direction the company wanted it to and then there will be times where the journalist may feel like they are writing too much of a puff piece. But we all need to focus on the facts, the interesting stories and the people that matter most -- the readers/viewers.
The news ecosystem requires all participants -- businesses, journalists and PR pros -- to work together in order to provide fair and balanced information and storytelling for readers and viewers. It is then up to them to make their own opinions on the situation.
Welcome to ROAMings, a compilation of thoughts and musings about the PR and media industries. This is an opportunity to discuss the “here and now” of the industry, interesting events or case studies, pivotal moments that affect how we approach PR, etc. It isn’t about brand loyalties or preferences -- and we will not be publishing self-promotional materials or talk about our clients in this setting -- but how those brands, individuals and events are leveraging (or in some cases abandoning) PR.