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How Has Media Relations Changed?

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media relations
Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay

Nothing stays the same and that also applies to media relations. There are numerous channels that simply didn’t exist 10-15 years ago and some of those channels now fall under the category of media.

The right place for your story may not be the newspaper but the person who blogs about your industry. That alone impacts media relations.

What are the new channels? Why should you care and how does that impact media relations?

If you are asking those questions I have good news for you. You’re in the right place but before we talk about media relations let’s take a step back and talk about the media itself.

What Is The Media?

The media itself or I should say what is considered media has changed over the last ten to fifteen years. Legacy or old media is what existed prior to the internet such as:

  • Newspapers
  • Magazines
  • Television
  • Radio

What some people like to call new media are channels that came into being after the advent of the internet. This includes things such as:

  • Websites
  • Blogs
  • Podcasts

The internet allows for the digital distribution of information and it changed everything. Even legacy media has been forced to go online. It’s not uncommon for newspapers, magazines, television and radio stations to have a website and publish via blogs and podcasts while promoting on social media.

Because of this, the labels of old media and new media are pointless. It’s all media that you can earn to carry your messages.

What Is Media Relations?

Media relations can be defined as a way to influence a media outlet to carry a story for you. It may be a specific outlet such as The New York Times or multiple outlets such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, CNBC, and Fox Business.

Because you have to influence somebody to carry the story, such as a reporter or producer, media relations is considered earned media. It’s a tactic that has been controlled by public relations (PR).

Let’s look at a quick example. Say that you have a game that has been developed specifically for Apple’s iPhone. You decide to get the news out to iPhone users via media relations.

You would first need to determine what outlets you want to carry your message. It could be outlets that cover tech news that has both print and online versions such as Wired but that list could also include blogs such as Daring Fireball and Touch Arcade. You might also want to target an online tech site like MacWorld or CNET. There are also a plethora of websites that focus on any news and rumors related to Apple such as 9to5mac, Appleinsider, and Macrumors.

There isn’t a cost for media relations meaning that media outlets aren’t going charge you for covering your story. However, this doesn’t mean that media relations is free. It’s not.

If you do it yourself there is the time you take build a relationship with a reporter, craft a pitch, and pitch it. The alternative is to hire an agency, such as mine, to do this for you.

Why Media Relations Is Important

The main goal of media relations is to create awareness. If people aren’t aware you or your product exist, they won’t even consider you. All awareness isn’t the same so keep in mind what your goals are so you the story can have the impact you want.

Media relations can also help with mindshare. When people are seeing stories on your organization in the media, it improves the chances they will look to you when they are looking for a solution to their problem.

Media relations can also help influence people. If you need marketing communication services and you have seen a positive article on my agency, that may help sway you to work with me or at the very least to check me out.

Local media can also arguably carry more weight with people than a much larger outlet such as Fox News or CNN.

There are certain reporters or bloggers that have developed a strong sense of trust with their audience meaning they also carry influence with them. Walt Mossberg wrote a tech column for the Wall Street Journal for years. When he spoke, people listened. I know as I was one of those people.

What has Changed?

The big media companies don’t have a monopoly anymore. Twenty years ago you wouldn’t have pitched a story to Bob in Peoria because he didn’t have a platform to reach millions of people. Now, Bob is a player because he has built a well-respected blog and there are people who will listen to Bob over the Wall Street Journal.

He may not be a news organization that’s part of a media conglomerate but he may have influence over a certain segment of the population that is important to us.

It’s not just Bob either. It’s Jodi who has a podcast that talks about parenting. It’s Teri who has a website that talks about exercise and nutrition. It’s Max who reviews apps on YouTube.

I’ll give you a real-world example. It probably won’t surprise you to hear that I read a lot of marketing communication blogs. One of my favorites is Spin Sucks which is run by Gini Deitrich and her team. Spin Sucks focuses on education for marketing communication professionals. It is one of a handful of go-to blogs that I reference on a regular basis.

Spin Sucks may not have its own magazine or television show but it is well-respected in the industry and provides great opportunity if you are trying to reach marketing communication professionals. I can’t tell you how many books I have bought, apps I have begun using, and the number of other marketing communication websites and personalities I started following because of a recommendation on Spin Sucks but I can tell you they should work on commission.

You can’t ignore these new channels as they can carry your message to the right people and often they can do it better than The New York Times, CNN, or Fox News.

Another big change to media relations is measurement.

Media Relations Can Be Measured

Twenty years ago you could have got covered by The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and CNBC but you couldn’t measure the impact it had. Yes, there were metrics such as media impressions and advertising equivalencies but they didn’t tell us much.

If you are doing media relations right, you are asking for coverage and a link back to your website so we can measure. That doesn’t impact who or how we are pitching but it does show up in our results.

Media relations efforts resulting in 200 leads are much better than a million impressions. Sure, a million impressions sounds awesome until you realize you have no idea how many people took any action. If there isn’t any data there is no way to know if what you are doing is working.

As an added bonus, link backs can help improve your search engine optimization efforts (if you want to learn more go here).

Is Media Relations An Art Or A Science?

Successful media relations is part art and part science. It’s probably more science than art because you don’t want to be pitching a reporter on your health product when they cover city hall.

This means you need to research. What media outlets are going to be best to cover your industry? Who are the reporters you want to target? What do they write about? Why is their audience going to be interested in the story? How are you going to measure success? Those all fall into the “science” of media relations. You don’t want to do it haphazardly.

Pitching is informed by the “science” but you can know everything you need to know and still say the wrong things. Pitching is kind of like interviewing. You may know what to say but if it doesn’t come out right they won’t buy it.

Final Thoughts

The only thing certain in life is change. Nothing is immune to this and that includes media relations. The good news is that the changes are to your benefit. They allow us to find sources outside of the large media organizations to carry our message. Even more important they give us the opportunity to measure results and that is a change that is worthwhile.

Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay

Shane Carpenter
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