It’s been a long-standing trend to note how public relations (PR) has been dead for years. Literally for years. Over the past few months, the topic has popped up again more frequently when mixed in with concerns about the validity of news from traditional media outlets and the abundance of user-generated content online today.
Skipping to the punchline, no PR is not dead. If you believe that PR is dead, then you have a misperception of what PR can encompass. For many years, the terms media relations and PR have been used interchangeably, though they really never should be. A narrow definition of PR that strictly focuses on the (important) skill of defining story angles and obtaining placement in major media outlets doesn’t capture the overall function which is:
The business of inducing the public to have understanding for and goodwill toward a person, firm, or institution – Merriam Webster Dictionary
Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics. – Public Relations Society of America
Nowhere in there is a mandate to use traditional media channels. The goal of public relations is communicating and establishing strong relationships. This is otherwise known as reputation. Each organization has a reputation and it shapes every interaction that a prospective customer, partner, or employee has with that entity. If you’re not working to maintain and positively enhance that reputation you’re ignoring a primary factor on bottom-line success.
When talking about PR, the following efforts all play a role in integrated success:
- Audience assessment and positioning
- Identifying your target audience and what is most important to them is an essential first step. Without a clear understanding of what you want them to do, it is a waste of time to throw tactics out in the marketplace. What is it that you believe the target community needs to know? Where does your organization fit in providing meaningful value to that audience? Where are the gaps in connecting those two positions?
- Based on the audience assessment, having specific messaging that speaks to them and provides the “so what” factor that is meaningful to them is essential. Without quality messaging that connects, everything else will fail.
- Content strategy and development
- With a strong position and messaging established, the focus can shift to outbound efforts to engage and cultivate the relationship your organization seeks to build. Start with a strategy on how to produce the content needed to amplify the voice of the organization. Tailored pieces of content for Earned (media relations), Owned (social media, blog, website) and paid (advertising, sponsorships) allow you to make the most of public relations efforts generating both strong reputational benefits and bottom-line growth.
- Media relations (online/offline)
- Storytelling and securing coverage remains a powerful tool in helping define and enhance the reputation of any organization. The change is that the potential for earned coverage has expanded dramatically with the expansion of online outlets. The view that media relations has gone away is foolish. It has evolved.
- Social media
- Owned content such as social media creates additional, tailored channels where organizations can speak directly with their community of customers and prospects. Messaging and tailored calls to action can deepen the relationship between the organization and its community. Earned coverage through media relations only enhances the value of social with quality links and content that reach the audience on their preferred social channel.
- Corporate social responsibility programs, community relations, sponsorships
- Each aspect of an organization makes an impact on how the broader community will feel about your brand. Quality reputations are invaluable in maintaining public trust. Think of the Mayo Clinic brand, which has been thoughtfully associated with quality care for decades as compared to fly-by-night care providers seeking to capitalize on the billions spent in healthcare. Every interaction makes an impact. Every online impression also makes an impact- positive or negative.
To maximize the impact of PR, these programs work together to build the mutually beneficial relationships that all organizations seek. Once a desired brand position is defined, every action whether online or offline has an impact on how that organizational brand is perceived. An ideal integrated program features offline activities (community events, sponsorships, traditional media placements) that spark interest in the organization. Those efforts can be funneled to drive interested audiences online to take the next step in engagement with your brand (landing page with a call to action, social media engagement/follow to learn more, downloading content that helps them fill a need) and cultivating a positive reputation.
PR is not dead but alive and well, actually thriving in the digital era. Think of every opportunity, online or offline, to enhance the reputation of your organization and build digital influence with key audiences.
To see examples of how integrated offline campaigns can drive results in the digital world, please contact us by filling out the form below.
If you’re on Twitter, you may be familiar with the #PRFail hashtag people use to share the worst public relations communications they find. If you’re not familiar with it, #PRFail is a hashtag that categorizes the worst public relations misfires that journalists and industry professionals come across. Take a look at the examples below:
As a public relations professional, I find these tweets somewhat offensive, pretty hilarious and extremely helpful. Even though our journalist counterparts are poking fun at us, when they share these tweets, we learn what not to say or do when pitching.
One practice to avoid when communicating with journalists is including overused jargon in your press release. Take a look at the list below for 20 PR-jargon words that we would be better off eliminating from our vocabulary.
20 PR Jargon Words Communications Pros Should Avoid
- Providing solutions
- Hotly anticipated
- Disrupt [an industry]
- Leading provider
Cut PR Jargon & Get to the Point
When we first started using words like these in communications, they truly had meaning; however, today these words have been overused to the point that they’ve lost their initial meaning. Journalists receive pitches that describe “revolutionary broccoli” or a “hotly-anticipated pen.” These kinds of pitches have numbed journalists to the true meaning behind these fancy-sounding words, so when we do pitch a game-changing stand-up desk, the phrase ‘game-changing’ does little to convince journalists of the desk’s value.
Instead of using PR jargon like the list above, let the facts speak for themselves in your communications. If you truly have a product that streamlines processes, tell the journalist how your product does this. If your company is a world-leader in education, then provide facts that back up your claim.
By cutting jargon and sticking with compelling facts, your communications will convey the status of being astonishing or cutting-edge without the direct use of this jargon.
Photo credit: Gavin Llewellyn
Follow-up calls are an essential public relations tactic to earn media coverage for your company or your clients. Although the majority of reporters prefer email, connecting with them via phone is the best way to sell your story idea and determine whether a journalist is interested in covering it.
Follow these four tips to get the most out of your time on the phone with the media.
Never ask if the reporter got your news release
Chances are likely they received your release, read it and took an appropriate action for whether or not they want to cover the story. Asking reporters whether they received your release irks them because it wastes their time.
Instead of asking if they read your release, jump straight into your story idea with the most compelling news angle for that publication’s audience. This shows the reporter you are well-versed in the topic and publication you’re pitching, and you value their time on the phone.
Always ask if it’s a good time to talk
This has been the best piece of advice I’ve received so far in my career. Starting your call with a reporter by asking whether it’s an OK time to talk shows you respect their time and understand the impending deadlines that plague reporters. Most of the time when you ask this, reporters will say it’s a good time to talk. Sometimes, they’ll tell you they’re on deadline, in which case you can ask when would be a better time to call back.
Give the reporter new information
Given the likelihood that a reporter is familiar with your news release and email pitch, make sure to offer new information when talking with reporters on the phone or leaving voicemails. Your updated pitch doesn’t have to be entirely new, but it does need to be revamped with additional information.
When I follow up with reporters, I have all of the story facts right in front of me. I give journalists the nut graph, then supplement the story idea with supporting facts that hammer home the newsworthy angle. I always do a quick Google search on each journalist I pitch to find any recent articles or related story coverage. This info is great for tailoring pitches and showing journalists you’ve done your homework. Then when I’m talking with journalists, I tailor my conversation based on their beat, publication type and verbal cues showing their interest.
Remember to sell the newsworthy angle
It’s up to PR professionals to be experts in what makes a story newsworthy – the timeliness, proximity and prominence that we regularly see in news stories. It’s our job to identify the most newsworthy angle of any media pitch and then explain to the reporter why the story would be a good fit for their audiences.
On Your Next PR Follow-Up Call
Next time you talk with a journalist on the phone, assume they have already read your news release, and start your conversation by asking if it’s an OK time to talk. Then provide new information in addition to your original pitch and explain the newsworthy angle of your story idea. Incorporating these four tips into your phone pitches will give you the best chance of earning media coverage, and it will help you build relationships with reporters.