The News Media Doesn’t Need PR People Anymore

Informatic spy (EPS 10,includes transparency) You may be wondering why a media trainer who guides corporate executives through the stages of interviews in traditional media and, in recent years, on Skype and social media, would make a statement like the one above.

It’s because we increasingly hear complaints from PR people about how much more difficult media relations has become since the emergence of the Internet.

Reporters as Detectives

Edward Bernays, who is credited with inventing the term “public relations,” polished John D. Rockefeller’s image by having him give away coins to encourage thrift. This early PR initiative was widely covered in the media. After that, reporters looked to public relations people as reliable sources of information.

But something has changed. PR people have long “pushed” out stories to reporters, to use the marketing term. Now reporters have access to a universe of information on the web from which to “pull” story ideas and locate expert sources. They’ve become like detectives looking for the most likely suspects.

There are just so many more choices. Everybody is available to weigh in on social media.

Be Searchable on the Web

It’s up to PR people to be sure their experts show up in a reporter’s web searches. Every content expert wants to be quoted in The Wall Street Journal or appear on Good Morning America, but when you are successful it’s like grabbing the gold ring.

First, become searchable in your industry trades where there are more opportunities to be included in stories. Be sure your profiles are up-to-date on social networks like LinkedIn, which is a great source for B2B executives, such as lawyers and attorneys.

Have a dynamic Facebook company page if you’re a consumer products company and highlight your spokespeople.

Comcast Bill became the early face of Comcast on Twitter by helping customers with service problems. As a result, reporters knew that Comcast would also be a reliable source for news about the utilities industry. Now most consumer product products have Twitter hotlines.

Grab Their Attention

There are so many choices for reporters now. Even the smallest company can get into the game with a really good story. Hello I Am an Expert Nametag Expertise Tag Your pitch has to really dazzle if you want to pique a reporter’s interest. You can’t pitch the same old, same old. Today, every story pitch has to resonate with readers to hold their attention.

But first, your pitch needs to grab the reporter. How do you learn what will make a reporter feel compelled to answer your phone call or return your email?

If you want to increase your chances, try using these techniques:

  • Do an analysis of every story a reporter has done over the past year and the themes he covers. How you can you align your needs with his?
  • Develop a list of key spokespeople and send it to the appropriate reporters for their electronic “Rolodex.” If they’re on deadline they may not have time to search the web. We know an agency that had great success with this strategy. One of their clients became the “go-to” source for a retail reporter at USA Today.
  • Develop a study and ask one or two of your most important media outlets – say, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times – if each wants to include a question. The answers of respondents to those questions will be exclusive to them.
  • Give the top tier media access to your CEO. He can’t sit behind a fortress anymore. The CEO will always trump speaking to another company spokesperson.

Consider Media Training (or Learn the Rules of the Game)

Just because a reporter interviews you or your client doesn’t mean that you’ll be included in the story. If you don’t feel that you’ve been at the top your game in past interviews, consider getting media/message training to sharpen your key messages. You and/or your clients need to be memorable.

If you aren’t, then someone else the reporter interviews is sure to give him just what he needs. Again, that’s why advance research and preparation is so important.

This new media environment is here to stay. The days of sending out a press release and getting hundreds of hits is over. The media universe is shrinking while the number of people pitching is increasing.

Set realistic expectations. While you may have a great story idea, getting an interview isn’t a slam-dunk. You’ll increase your chances of a reporter calling if you consistently show up in her web searches.

You’re more likely to be quoted and wow the reporter with the sharpness and originality of your responses after working with an experienced coach. After all, isn’t that what you want?

4 comments to The News Media Doesn’t Need PR People Anymore

  • As you know so well reporters do like to rag on PR people for lots of reasons.
    Your wonderful and extremely helpful advice reminded me of my very early days in the business when I was taken to task by a local reporter, actually in front of a client. The reporter said, as she was packing up to leave, ” It’s really simple, Jim, next time you call, have something newsworthy.” Ouch, but instructive.

    Thanks for your wise words.

  • Jim- Great story although I can imagine it was painful in the moment! Thanks so much for contributing to this discussion.
    Joyce

  • David Wojdyla

    “DO AN ANALYSIS OF EVERY STORY A REPORTER HAS DONE OVER THE PAST YEAR.”

    Are you serious? Of course you are. (And having done exactly that, we know it works!)

    Yet I suspect many readers will ignore your sage advice b/c it’s easier and faster to send out another 100 e-mails with a generic hook.

    BTW, thanks for tip #2 and #3. We’ve never tried those but soon will :)

  • LOL! Thanks, David for weighing in. Please let us know how you do with our other suggestions!

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