Is Media Relations a Dying Breed?

We are often asked this question here at our agency, particularly by our clients who are budgeting their PR and marketing spend. Should they still be earmarking funds for traditional media? With the rise of social media, aren’t press releases and journalist interviews becoming a thing of the past?  

Well, yes and no.

I often use this analogy to explain my perspective: If you’re anywhere near my age, you probably remember watching television as a child. There were a limited number of choices – three big networks, perhaps a cable channel or two and PBS. These days, however, viewers have a mind-boggling range of options, from the plethora of cable networks to premium “pay” channels and Netflix. But while TV consumers now have a lot to choose from, that doesn’t mean the original outlets are obsolete.

It’s true that traditional media is no longer the only game in town. And while it shouldn’t account for the lion’s share of budget these days, it is actually a myth that it’s dead. Sure, there are far less publications now than say, five years ago, but those that do still exist have readerships. And importantly, many are increasingly focusing on their digital content.

The news media still has considerable clout, as well. SEO, for instance, continues to give more credence to online content from traditional sources than it does “paid” editorial and sponsorships.

What all this means is that you shouldn’t be ignoring traditional media. It still has value; it’s just become one of myriad channels for reaching your target audience. For now at least, a balanced marketing budget should continue to include it. The “right” amount of budget allocated depends on many things, including the client’s goals, audience demographics and communications strategy. Also, please note that since there are actually fewer publications these days, the laws of supply and demand are at work. It may actually take more resources to garner the desired media attention, since businesses are vying for fewer available spots.

For this reason, you want to make the best of each and every media opportunity. If you’re someone who has lost touch with the process of pitches and corresponding interviews, here are some quick reminders:

· Be prepared. Research the publication (including its website and blog) and find out what you can about the interviewer beforehand.

· Know your facts. Define and rehearse key messages, and have your statistics sourced and on-hand.

· Use succinct statements and colorful quotes. They greatly increase your chance for coverage, including their reuse on platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.

· Nothing is off the record. Forget what you’ve seen in movies – anything you say can be included in a story, even if you’re asking for it not to be.

· Handle tough questions and criticism with grace. Be appreciative of feedback and avoid sounding defensive. Anticipate and be prepared to answer sensitive questions, and then get the interview back on track ASAP.

· Honesty is the best policy. If you don’t know the answer to a question, say so, and offer to get back to the interviewer with the correct information. Then, be sure you do it. Reporters are still on deadlines.

With the continued explosion of social media (see our list of hot 2014 trends essential for your B2B strategy here), it’s clear traditional media is no longer the only path. In fact, it continues to incrementally lose ground to digital and social strategies. It’s even a possibility that someday, traditional media outlets may all but fall off the map. But for now, for most companies, continuing to allocate a portion of your budget to media relations still makes good business sense. 

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