This week, the great and the good from across the PR world came together at CommsCon 2019 to discuss the evolution of PR and communications strategy as we move into a new decade. The past twenty years has been very disruptive for the communications industry with the rise of digital and social media. With this disruption in mind, the conference opened with a question that would strike fear into the heart of any traditional flak, is media relations dead?
Fortunately, for those of us who still practise the delicate craft of pitching stories to journalists or managing reputations during a crisis, the opening panel agreed that media relations was as essential as ever. They did concede that media relations is often finding itself as a supporting player rather than at the core pillar of PR campaigns.
At the turn of the millennium there was still a fierce battle between the major search engines. A decade later and the social media giants were firmly established with Google the gatekeeper of information on the internet and Facebook able to connect over 600 million users.
With this influx of social media channels and influencers, traditional news and media publishers found themselves with fierce competition from challengers like Buzzfeed and Huffpost, columnists found themselves competing with new influencers like the Kardashians and Tim Ferris. PRs are now empowered with the ability to reach out directly to an individual within a target audience and convey a brands message and purpose themselves.
As businesses are empowered with online data, the measurement of PR activities has become key. Past metrics like the antiquated and arbitrary AVE measurements (advertising value equivalent) for coverage is thankfully being replaced with more practical measurements of engagement and business conversions. By understanding how a comms activity can directly influence a positive outcome with customers, PR advisors can adapt strategies and tactics to achieve results.
All of this data means that we can return to the value of quality media relations. Positive coverage in a national newspaper or key trade publication can be utilized to expand a business’ reputation with previously difficult to reach audiences.
Ultimately, media relations have not become obsolete but has been joined by a multitude of tools available to PR and communications professionals. The creative and analytical skills required to pitch a good story to a journalist are just as important when communicating with influencers. Understanding your target audience and how to reach them with your message is a fundamental skill that is relatable across all forms of public relations.
Tom Gilby is an account manager at The PR Office