Tag Archives: media relations

Has traditional media relations bit the dust?

This topic is one that hits home for me – media relations and its relevance in our digital world. When I was in college at Kent State University (yes, an amazing school!), I was fortunate to be taught by some of the best practitioners I’ve ever met, even to this day. But one topic that surmounted them all – including top-notch research, strategic planning and writing – was media relations.

Now I am well aware that term can be interpreted in many ways depending on your education, or the type of business or industry you work in. But, at its crux, media relations is building and harnessing mutually beneficial relationships to reach and engage your target public/s. Remember that phrase “mutually beneficial relationships?” Yep, it’s part of, and has been a centerpiece of the Public Relations Society of America’s mission statement for 60 years now.

So, has the traditional media relations I so fondly remember bit the dust? The answer… NO.

What do I mean by traditional media relations?
When I use that term, I am referring to what most of us have done for years now – forging relationships with media contacts through pitching, editorial meetings, tours of newsrooms, etc. Remember the press conference or the media tour? It’s like we’ve forgotten about the all important two-way, face-to-face communications we had drilled into our minds in every PR class. That’s how we used to reach key people in the media – by showing some form of personality and tact. It didn’t matter if you were trying to attain coverage or to learn more about a respective media outlet, it all revolved around connecting with that person on some level. That connection remains of great importance to our field, even with the advent of social media.

Why is traditional media relations still important?
I will argue anyone that utilizing traditional media relations, like picking up the phone and calling a journalist to discuss a story idea or inquire about their needs, is still critical to our profession. Even now, I find myself garnering far better coverage – not to mention quality of coverage – by just calling a reporter and having a candid conversation with him or her.

These people don’t have all day to shoot the breeze though – even with shrinking newsrooms and less time to gather data. But let’s face it, we’re living in a time when these folks crave great content. When we package that content in newsworthy and practical ways, we will reap the rewards of story placement; and more importantly, build trust among the media.

Do college students or entry-level pros get it?
I don’t think college students or young practitioners right out of college really understand the importance of media relations from the perspective I am describing. Many students I’ve met are inundated with the power of social media and the infinite possibilities surrounding this exciting term. Yes, I’m an advocate of using social media tools to reach key media personnel and even score coverage, but that’s only part of the job. Social media platforms are a way to introduce yourself and learn about the person, but a balance of online, social media and traditional pitching are necessary to create a true relationship.

What’s my advice to students on old school media relations?
My advice is simple. Swallow your fear, think strategic (script with bulleted facts), know what you will say and pick up the phone! I assure you, it really works. For those of you who are so bold as to attempt this daunting and horrific task, let me offer my short-list of 10 ways PR professionals can still use media relations to build invaluable relationships with the media:

  1. Create a media list of your local or regional media outlets.
  2. Identify the key players you want to get to know.
  3. Call them up and ask what types of stories they’re looking for.
  4. Extend an offer to meet for coffee or lunch to learn more about them, and for them to learn about you.
  5. Setup an editorial meeting with section editors to discuss your news depending on the level of urgency and news value.
  6. READ their publications as much as possible! (Knowing what they write and how they present it makes a huge difference).
  7. Provide occasional recognition to a published piece. (Don’t pitch here… it’s just a way to let them know you’re paying attention).
  8. Keep them in the loop on what you’re working on as it relates to them. You’d be surprised by the mundane things that can skyrocket to the top of a journalist’s hot list without even realizing it.
  9. Follow their careers as they progress. People quickly turnover and change positions in this industry. Keeping in touch makes a world of difference! (They pass along contact names and other valuable information).
  10. DO NOT be afraid to pick up the phone and call them. Even with social media and email, a phone call goes a long way in showing you care and that you’re genuine. Email and social media can be impersonal and sometimes seem too forward.
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ad:tech ruffles PR’s ethical feathers

Last month was PR Ethics Month, when we remind ourselves about the host of ethical dilemmas we, as PR practitioners, face. It’s also a time to reflect on our commitment to a stringent code of ethics placed at the highest point of our personal and professional standards. Each year, the world’s largest professional association for public relations practitioners, PRSA, makes it a point to highlight new changes to its ethical code, as well as promote various issues facing PR ethics and how to approach them.

Industry publications like PRSA Tactics, PRWeek and others regard ethics to reside at the core of public relations practice. Recently, leadership at ad:tech, an annual gathering of online marketers, offered free or discounted access to the conference for endorsed tweets, Facebook and blog posts from prominent bloggers. We in PR call this Pay-for-Play or Pay-to-Play. The definition was recently updated by the Board of Ethics and Professional Standards (BEPS) with PSA-9.

The request for coverage from ad:tech was exposed by bloggers and PR people within the industry. In a blog post by Jason Chupick from PRNewser on Oct. 17 detailed the news of what ad:tech had done, including the full letter of apology. Chupick said:

My co-editor confirmed by phone yesterday that the person who sent the emails neither works internally at ad:tech, or at their PR firm Edelman.

What the organization did
With the negative responses and comments swirling and growing stronger, Event Director, Mike Flynn, from ad:tech immediately posted a full apology for its inappropriate actions. This was the right move, and helped mitigate any further negative brand perception, but may have done some damage.

Regardless of who sent the emails to the bloggers and journalists, ad:tech management should have made sure they knew what was going on. Their PR firm – the world’s largest independently owned agency, Edelman – should have been a part of this since they were the agency of record and PR counsel to the organization. My question is, who sent out the emails then? And how are they being dealt with? This person/s should be held accountable in some way and exposed for what they did.

How ethical are PR people?
We keep saying we follow an ethical guiding light that points us in the right direction, but we hear too many stories similar to this one. That prompts me to wonder if we just think we’re ethical or if we truly understand ethical standards but turn a blind eye when we feel we can personally gain. Interestingly enough, a survey was done by Carol Orsborn, Ph.D., and Judith Rogala, for their book “Trust Inc,” revealing that less than 10 percent of PR practitioners ever received any training on how to make ethical decisions.

Ann Subervi, president and CEO of Utopia Communications, Inc. in Red Bank, N.J., made some comments that are a fitting end to this post and ones that we should try to employ.

Most of us struggle with what action to take when faced with an ethical dilemma. While awareness of ethics is great, the ability to act ethically is even better. Ethics cannot be a once-a-year focus. Rather, it needs to be an ongoing focus.


Are PR pros keeping up with the times?

In the past, PR professionals were slow to adopt new techniques – from new ways to pitch journalists to press release styles. We were, and still are to an extent, resistant to change. We’d better be ready to not only float, but sail forward as communications leaders, especially with the immense changes in technology occurring.

Although we once distanced ourselves from new trends and techniques, we made sure to not make that mistake with the advent and development of Social Media. I can recall at the 2007 PRSA International Conference in Salt Lake City a fervent effort to take on the challenges and opportunities Social Media could provide PR pros. Continue reading


Who holds the key to integrated marketing communications?

Illustration by Francis Anderson

Illustration by Francis Anderson

Having worked at both PR  and advertising agencies, I’ve had the opportunity to experience how each view integrated marketing communications (IMC). I believe advertising agencies do not understand IMCs true purpose, but PR agencies do.

Is it because people at ad agencies tend to be more creative-based? Or is it because PR pros are inherently analytical and strategic? Or is it rooted in the education each practitioner receives?

What I Think
I consider advertising professionals to be limited in their knowledge of IMC because they’re not exposed to the many facets of marketing communications in both theory and practice like a PR practitioner is. So I contend that advertising professionals lack of understanding of IMC stems from their cumulative education. University advertising programs look to train their students singularly in advertising, with few courses required in public relations or general communications. Continue reading


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