For a long time, public relations was synonymous with media relations, with some analyst relations, awards and speaking engagements on the side if you were really comprehensive. But media relations — the coveted front page of
The New York Times,
the Good Morning America segment, or that exclusive profile in TechCrunch — was the reason companies hired PR firms.
Why did media relations always come first? It was the most effective way to build awareness and credibility, and it still is. The catch is that the lifecycle of a news story is not what it once was. The media landscape is crowded. There’s been a 106% increase in news stories in the last 10 years and there are no signs of this slowing down.
People are inundated with polarizing information, and its impact has caused them to tune out and shut down. Brand trust is at stake and can be lost with a single tweet. In 2018, we saw more clients in crisis than ever before — from the #MeToo movement to data breaches.
With all of this playing in the noisy background, earned, owned and paid media continue to blur, making it even harder for average consumers to distinguish real news from clickbait headlines. This blurring is also leading to mass confusion and indecision about what the right media mix should be for all types of organizations that are trying to reach their audiences.
The job of PR today is the same as it’s always been: build mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their audiences. However, the tactics must change to address this new reality.
Intent is redefining the marketing funnel. The buyer’s journey, once a neat funnel that started with awareness and flowed through to consideration and purchase, is now more of a constellation: a scattered series of moments or touch points where you have the opportunity to educate, increase awareness and even inspire someone to take an action.
So how do we make public relations more effective? We move beyond the idea that media relations alone will drive leads. We need to make your content — all of your content — more discoverable. Before, you would take your message to the right audiences. Now, your audience can find you with a simple Google search, assuming you use the correct keywords.
Effective PR is comprised of a series of levers we can pull to deliver the right message to the right audience at hundreds of the right times and places. Traditional PR activities like media relations won’t succeed without integrating them with visual design, paid amplification, influencer support, SEO best practices and other digital marketing tactics.
This is the only way to create a meaningful and measurable program. Investments without a clear, undisputed impact on the company’s bottom line are the first to be cut. And while earned media remains the most trusted and critical endorsement of a product or service, it’s harder than ever to secure, evaporates quickly and is more challenging to measure than channels with clearer inputs and outcomes like paid search or social media.
This shift has put increased pressure on PR programs to drive traffic, leads and sales similar to marketing campaigns. While certainly possible, it requires a shift in mindset and approach in order to design and execute campaigns that cut through the clutter and have measurable impacts.