In college, I took a course called “Introduction to PR & Advertising,” and the required text was The Public Relations Practitioner’s Playbook by Larry Litwin.
The problem with following a playbook? The rules of the game change.
I took that course in 2009 and, in just eight years, much of the content I read in that book has become irrelevant or changed shape enough to become unrecognizable to the modern communication professional. Even the term “press release” is becoming passé – younger generations feel the term “news release” is more appropriate because news quite often hits the web before it goes to the press.
Right now, I am enrolled in a course called “Online PR,” in which we’re reading David Meerman Scott’s The New Rules of Marketing & PR, which is an international best seller now in its fifth edition. Scott provides thoughtful insight into how media relations has changed as part of an overall communications strategy.
Now considered “old PR,” practitioners’ ultimate goal was to get the media – likely a newspaper or magazine – to write a positive story about their company, which they would then feature in “clips” to better represent their value to the business.
But that’s no longer the case. We live in the world of Web 2.0, or the second stage of development of the World Wide Web, characterized especially by the change from static web pages to dynamic or user-generated content and the growth of social media.
AKA: Information control is no longer centralized.
A new generation of PR practitioners must follow “The New Rules of News Releases,” which Scott describes in Chapter 19 (pg. 339-340) as follows:
- Don’t send news releases just when big news is happening; find good reasons to send them all the time.
- Instead of targeting a handful of journalists, create news releases that appeal directly to your buyers.
- Write releases that are replete with keyword-rich language used by your buyers.
- Include offers that compel consumers to respond to your release in some way.
- Place links in releases to deliver potential customers to landing pages on your website.
- Link to related content on your site such as videos, blog posts, or e-books.
- Optimize news release delivery for searching and browsing.
- Point people to your news releases from your social sites like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
- Drive people into the sales process with news releases.
Instead of PR practitioners having to go out and chase the media, the media now finds their stories based on a simple concept often ignored or overlooked:
STRONG, QUALITY CONTENT.
Say it with me: Strong. Quality. Content.
The way in which that content is crafted and distributed across different media is equally important. For instance, a pitched story might (and should) have three different versions across paid distribution, a blog hosted on a website and social media posts.
It should also be audience-centric. In other words, PR practitioners now must establish two-way relationships with their reporter and journalist peers. I don’t know about you, but I’d be more likely to feature a story from an organization I knew and trusted instead of broadcasting a generic message from some unknown email that showed up at the top of my inbox without introduction.
In Chapter 21, Scott offers the following thoughts when considering how to reach the media:
- Nontargeted, broadcast pitches are spam.
- News releases sent to reporters in subject areas they do not cover are spam.
- Reporters who don’t know you yet are looking for organizations like yours and products like yours — make sure they will find you on sites such as Google and industry sites.
- If you blog, reporters who cover the space will find you.
- Pitch bloggers, because being covered in important blogs will get you noticed by mainstream media.
- When was the last news release you sent? Make sure your organization is busy.
- Journalists want a great online media room.
- Include video and photos in your online media room.
- Some (but not all) reporters love RSS feeds.
- Personal relationships with reporters are important.
- Don’t tell journalists what your product does. Tell them how you solve customer problems.
- Follow journalists on Twitter to learn what interests them.
- Does the reporter have a blog? Read it. Comment on it. Before you pitch, read (or listen to or watch) the publication (or radio program or TV show) you’ll be pitching to.
- Once you know what a reporter is interested in, send her an individualized pitch crafted especially for her needs.
The rules have changed, and they will change again. And again. And again. How do you think living in the Web 2.0 world will continue to impact the communication industry, and how can practitioners stuck in the traditional mindset adapt to the ever-evolving nature of the digital landscape?