Many people in the marketing and communications world have heard the acronym PESO (paid, earned, shared/social, owned) to talk about the different types of media out there in the world today. For this particular article, we are going to talk about the first two since they are so very often viewed as interchangeable by people both inside and out of the industry, resulting in lots of frustration and miscommunication around results.
While they work well together, paid and earned media are still separate entities. Many online news outlets, in order to bolster revenue, have been incorporating paid media outside of the traditional banner ads -- sponsored content, native advertising and/or advertorials -- on to their sites, making it difficult for readers to tell the difference between what was written by their staff and what was paid for and placed by a sponsor. In some cases, contributed articles can be viewed as paid media but that has started causing a backlash by editorial teams who want to ensure that their readers are getting expert opinions on timely topics, not just a self-serving corporate message.
Earned media centers around your traditional articles, Q&As and profile pieces, written by a journalist from their perspective after speaking with a variety of sources and experts. Unlike paid media, where you know when, where and what will be published, earned media is at the discretion of the journalist and his/her editor. Unless there are factual inaccuracies, stories are rarely adjusted. This is why is it "earned" media -- it is critical for your communications team to build the relationships with reporters and clearly understand what the story is about.
If it is a proactive pitch to a reporter, collecting all of the pieces of your ideal story in advance -- spokespeople, messages, data, external sources, etc. -- is vital. But even then, journalists have their own sources and views on various topics so their written words may not be exactly what you and your team were envisioning.
They could be worse -- or they could be even better. This is the gamble you take with earned media. If you aren't willing to take the risk, you and your team might be better off focusing resources on the other pieces of PESO.
This may seem obvious but it is a critical and sometimes overlooked step for many businesses. Identifying, and more importantly understanding, your audience can make or break your business. Yet many organizations tend to skip or gloss over it.
Dig in deep here. Yes, you may be excited to get to market with your product or launch to press but you need to get it right for the people that matter most: your customers.
Who are they? What problems are you facing and how does your product/service help solve those issues? What are their priorities? What values resonate most to them and why?
If you are planning to service different countries or industries, the answers to these questions most likely will be different for each segment. While your overarching points should be universally consistent, you will need to factor those differences into your messaging and value proposition for each market. This will affect everything from your website and your sale collateral to your executive talking points and advertising campaigns.
Taking the time to learn about your audience early on will make a world of difference in the long run. (It is also important to reevaluate your audience over time, as it could shift as your company and/or markets evolve.) Your customers will appreciate that you truly understand them and want to help them accomplish their business objectives.
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.
You have a PR team!
Whether you've hired a full-time in-house PR person, a part-time contractor or an agency, you and the business have committed to a PR program. This is a great first step. But the work doesn't stop there.
A responsible leadership team will not simply hire a PR person or team, walk away and assume that press coverage will start appearing overnight.
While there are no guarantees in PR, there are certainly steps that you can take to ensure you are getting the most out of your team.
This is a big, loaded question that gets asked quite regularly.
Because it is important.
We've approached this question from a variety of angles here on the ROAMings blog and our founder will be discussing it in further detail during the "PR Secrets Revealed" online summit, starting today.
So now we are going to take the question on directly: Are you ready for PR?
The answer is going to vary from business to business and is going to be dependent on a multitude of factors. But in order to truly understand if your business -- and more importantly you and your leadership -- are ready for PR, you need to be able to answer some questions openly and honestly and make sure you are all on the same page with the answers.
The benefit to this exercise, whether or not you proceed with a PR program, is that it gets the team thinking like one unit and asking questions that you are probably either too busy or afraid to ask one another. But once they are out in the open, the picture starts getting much clearer on what is needed to be successful overall, not just with a PR program.
Understanding your goals and objectives is the next step. What are you trying to accomplish with a PR program? What existing initiatives do you have in place that PR can help enhance? (remember: PR shouldn't be the only tool in your toolbox to meet business objectives.)
Scope and budget are also a factor. Whether you choose to hire in-house, an agency or a contractor, you will need to understand what the job will entail and how much money you are willing and able to spend. Look at your product roadmap to see what news you will have coming and whether it warrants a full-time PR program or one-off projects. For budget, understand that PR programs are an investment, but they shouldn't dominate your overall operating expenses.
So are you ready for PR?
That is for you and your team to ultimately decide.
The answer can be no and there is nothing wrong with that. Just make sure you are absolutely ready when you jump off the line and start sprinting. It will be quite the journey.
From deciding whether to choose a PR agency, in-house person or contractor to approaching PR from the right perspective, start-ups have what can sometimes be viewed as a daunting task when determining their PR strategy. That includes knowing when PR isn't the right answer.
This is why we are excited to have our founder Kat Eller Murray speaking as part of the upcoming "PR Secrets Revealed: Go From Sidelines To Headline & Win A Global Audience" Summit. Kat will join host Heather Burgett for a conversation about what start-ups and entrepreneurs need to ask themselves before committing to a PR program -- and what to do to build it.
The free online series, which brings 20+ top PR experts together to share actionable tips, tools and tactics for entrepreneurs, will run April 17 - May 7, 2017.
Other topics that will be covered during the Summit include:
Make sure to join us by RSVPing here.
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.
PR professionals can spend a good amount of time reading the news and helping correct inaccuracies on behalf of their clients. But quite a bit of inaccuracies are actually related to the job itself and people's misconceptions around what we do for a living.
So we asked top PR pros, "What is the biggest PR myth you've had to fight (or continually fight)?" Here are their responses:
"The biggest myth has always been, and continues to be, that PR happens over night. Or that having a 'relationship' with a particular journalist, blogger or outlet = instant coverage. It doesn't work that way."
"Many people still believe that the purpose of PR is to help increase their bottom line and users/customers. This is slightly true but the real purpose of PR is to reinforce your brand equity and help increase awareness in the marketplace."
"The biggest myth or misconception I see about public relations is that we're here to spin or cover up information when in reality, we push to ensure information is communicated effectively, clearly and at the most opportune time for both our consumers and the companies we represent. Most of the time, we are advocating to communicate information, not the other way around."
"That it's easy to get media coverage in national daily media outlets, such as the NY Times or WSJ. Understandably so, clients often believe their products/services are newsworthy 'just because.' They don't understand that a major news hook is needed to even get the reporter to listen, let alone include them in an article. It's a continuing process to educate clients on how PR and the media work."
"The most insidious PR myth is spin. More specifically, the idea that with the right spin fundamental business or product issues or actual facts already in the public eye can simply be made to disappear."
It's only natural to get excited and start sprinting as fast as you can with as much spirit and gusto as you can muster when you start something new, including a new PR program or campaign. This passion and excitement is critical to its success.
But the important elements to any PR program that many tend to forget are focusing on longevity and endurance.
So many times, we jump out of our seats, pulling together our plans, identifying our target reporters and sending out pitches. But if the results aren't immediate or they start slowing down after some initial response, we start getting discouraged and our executives start questioning our processes.
We must always look at PR programs in segments -- both the short-term and the long-term -- and they must work together.
When I ran my first (and only) half-marathon, I mentally broke it into segments, otherwise the entire 13.1 miles seemed practically impossible and I would have failed before even stepping foot on the course. Same thing applies to our PR programs.
We need to look at our immediate and long-term objectives and find ways to weave them together. What do you have to get gone this quarter? How does that change next quarter or the final quarter of the year? Are there messages that can be carried throughout each quarter, but maybe in a different way or from a different angle? Can you convey your messages through different examples or formats?
By approaching our PR programs from both perspectives, we get the immediate returns we need to keep the team excited and motivated, but also allow ourselves the endurance to keep it moving -- consistently -- in the months, quarters and years to come.
Every new year comes with new opportunities and new challenges.
We asked some of our colleagues in the PR industry: "What are the biggest obstacles PR professionals face in the coming year?" Here are some of their responses.
"With so much swirl in D.C., it may take a couple of months for other industries like technlogy or travel to get back to the share-of-voice that they're accustomed to, or they'll have to fight harder and get creative to maintain or grow it. It may be a good time to experiment with different, more targeted approaches like exclusive or feature placements that don't rely on the echo-chamber effect that could be dampened in the coming year for all but the most prominent players."
"For one, probably the same that it's been for a while: demonstrating the real value of PR.
"Contributed content written by your clients to position them as experts in their industry, is a hot trend and will continue to be a very important part of your PR strategy in 2017. With that being said, media outlets are constantly getting bombarded with guest thought leadership pieces from publicists, which means that you need to make sure you're submitting high quality, stellar content on fresh topics. Also, the Editorial Directors for these media outlets that take contributed content, are constantly changing so it's going to be a little difficult keeping up with who you should be pitching."
But not everything in 2017 is negative for PR pros...
"I've been in this industry for over 25 years and I believe PR professionals are in a sweet spot right now. Most businesses realize they need PR/Marketing support and are taking PR more seriously. It's not the first thing to be eliminated when budgets get tight anymore."
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.