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Is Media Relations Dead?

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Is media relations dead? Not in today’s PESO PR model

PR pros around the globe are witnessing massive changes in the field. In fact, a recent article in the BusinessWire Blog called Media Outlet Availability on PR Efforts, by Christopher S. Penn, Chief Data Scientist with TrustInsights.ai, cites some revealing statistics about the shrinking number of media outlets and the challenge for PR and media relations.

Consider that:

  • The number of bona fide independent media outlets is declining – in the U.S. the number of media outlets has dropped by almost 60 percent since 2015, with the lion’s share of the decline coming from the daily newspaper ranks;
  • The number of reporters has dropped significantly as well, with U.S. government statistics showing newsroom employment dropping 29 percent since 2010; and
  • Survey after survey shows that today’s journalists are being asked to do more than ever, in terms of covering broader beats and filing more stories across more traditional and digital platforms, doing more social media promotion and amplification of those stories, and creating more blog posts, videos and webinars, amidst shrinking newsroom staffs.

It is no wonder that one of the most common complaints of many PR professionals – especially those working in the business-to-consumer (B2C) sector where newspapers are a primary target – is that media relations is more difficult than ever.

While the shrinking number of media outlets affects the potential pitch opportunities for all PR people, the negative impact is less pronounced for the business-to-business front, where trade journals are generally faring better than newspapers.

In fact, in the business-to-business (B2B) trade journal sector, we are finding that because of shrinking news staffs and greater workloads for journalists, many publications are actually a bit more open than in the past to accepting bylined articles, guest viewpoints and executive Q&A pieces … IF there is a level of trust with the PR person doing the pitching.

But still, the media relations is dead prediction seems to gain steam. In fact, some PR agencies are amplifying the “media relations is dead” message for another reason.

They are finding that there is less effort and higher margin in convincing their clients to shift budgets exclusively to other digital activities … those are easier to conduct and control (and therefore more likely to avoid risk), and are more profitable for the agency.

Media Relations, Earned Media & the PESO© Model

Scoring positive coverage in a respected business newspaper or credible trade journal in the current environment is a major challenge today.

Many companies – B2C and B2B alike – are adopting the integrated PESO model popularized (and copyrighted) by Arment Dietrich CEO and Spin Sucks founder Gini Dietrich.

These enterprises are integrating paid, earned, shared and owned media into a cohesive effort to build authority and position themselves as experts.

And as they do, many corporate PR departments are turning more of their attention, efforts and budget to the newer paid, shared and owned media components — paid social media promotion, influencer sponsorships, and owned media such as corporate social media accounts, newsletters, email campaigns and YouTube videos, for example.

It is easy to get comfortable with three of these components, as they help PR pros to eliminate risk and build in control, predictability and metrics.

When compared to traditional media relations (itself an important part of the “earned media” component of PESO), these other components give you better control on the timing, the message and the frequency of your promotional message.

But trying to succeed with the PESO approach without a strong earned media/media relations component is like trying to drive your car on three wheels: it is not going to get you where you want to go.

You need all four components to succeed.

Here’s why:

A strong, pro-active media relations component can add two key success factors to your integrated approach:

1) Maximum Credibility – When your CEO is quoted in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Automotive News or Automotive Engineering magazine, the reader infers that your company must be expert in its field; otherwise, the credible, objective news outlet would not have quoted or covered them.

Media coverage carries the authority and credibility of an implied endorsement from a respected, objective third party media outlet.

On the other hand, while they are valuable, your website, paid social ads, blog posts or YouTube videos may tend to be perceived by the audience as more promotional, and they may subconsciously discount the claims in your owned and paid media.

So even if the reader/viewer should stumble upon and read your content, they will tend to view it with a skeptical eye at best and usually with a healthy amount of distrust … unless it incorporates, shares or amplifies your coverage in credible media outlets they follow and trust.

2) Optimized Audience – Media coverage can help you target your message to a qualified, engaged audience and extend your reach in two ways over your owned media properties.

First, existing independent media outlets already have a following of interested readers or viewers. And if your company operates in the B2B space, the trade media that covers your sector may have thousands of readers / viewers who depend on their publication for the information they need to do their jobs.

For example, if your company is an automotive technology supplier like many of our agency’s clients, an article in Automotive Engineering magazine can carry your story to some 135,000 mobility engineering and technical professionals around the world who are looking for mobility-related technical, insight and trend information.

Even with the biggest budget in the industry, your company would be hard-pressed to build the same kind of qualified, engaged audience for your website or blog … and if you could, it would take years.

The second – and perhaps most powerful – way media coverage can help you extend your reach is through SEO (search engine optimization) on Google and other search engines.

Bona fide, respected, independent media outlets carry a much higher authority ranking with Google. And these online articles will turn up in searches for years – well beyond the one-day life of a hard copy newspaper story or the one-week or one-month of the current issue of a trade publication.

This means an article in the New York Times, for example, on your company will typically rank on page one of search results page for a long time (until it is displaced by more current coverage), while your own self-published content on your website or blog may not show up until many search pages later.

We know that most people don’t go past page one when looking at Google search results in the real world. This means that authoritative media coverage that supercharges your SEO can make all the difference in your company being discovered by a new prospect … or in your company being seen in a whole new light by an existing customer.

These days, search has put the customer is in control, and customers increasingly use search to find potential business partners and to research and validate recommendation they may have received.

Media Relations Adds Credibility, Reach & SEO to Your Campaign

If you are looking to reach new potential customers, attract new talent and educate investors who may be unaware of your company, do not neglect media relations just because it got a little harder.

As a key component of the earned media pillar of your PESO promotional approach, media relations is crucial to your campaign’s success.

So while securing publicity through media relations is harder than ever, it is also more valuable and more effective than ever.

Because it got harder to do, your competitors are less likely to do media relations.

Because it got harder to do, your existing relationships with key reporters – or your PR agency’s relationships with the right journalists – are more important and valuable than ever.

Because it got harder to do, media relations is the one thing you should emphasize in late 2020 and into 2021.

Differentiate yourself and your company by stepping up to the challenge … and doing what your competitors lack the energy, courage or determination to do.

Is Media Relations Dead?

So, as the headline asks, is media relations dead?

Perhaps it is, at least for those companies, PR pros and marketing communications executives who would rather easily check the boxes than tackle a real challenge.

But for those communications professionals who understand the sheer and growing power of media coverage as part of an integrated marketing communications approach – and who want to:

  • Build credibility in an untrusting environment,
  • Extend their reach into new, qualified audiences in a fragmented world, and
  • Generate superior SEO in an increasingly Google-Search-driven society …

… media relations is more vital, impactful and valuable than ever.

If you need help in harnessing the power and reach of media relations in your automotive, mobility or B2B efforts, email us at bianchipr@bianchipr.com.

NOTE:

©PESO is a copyright of Arment Dietrich, Inc. dba Spin Sucks. Click here for more info on the PESO model.

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