Capturing attention and building media relationships in “The New PR” environment

A client’s investor called me to check in on the status of a communications campaign. Having made it through both “Web 1.0” and “Web 2.0,” he shared a perspective I hear often from media and technology leaders these days. Despite a seeming explosion of places where companies can get coverage—blogs and podcasts, along with newspapers and other traditional earned media outlets—it still feels tougher to get “story placement.”

20 years ago, you could pretty much count on collecting column inches for things like:

  • A lifestyle piece about a successful CEO or product lead,
  • A new feature or a milestone metric,
  • A modest donation to a scholarship fund or a community organization, or
  • A ribbon-cutting at a new location or the announcement of new jobs.

Today’s bloggers, journalists, and social media mavens don’t care about that stuff, and it’s driving my colleagues in the traditional public relations space a little bit bonkers. As I mentioned before, assignment editors want sizzle: a story that cuts through the noise and entices audiences to lean forward. That means more stories that pit consumers against companies, more stories about product defects, more “takedown pieces” shrouded in gossip column language.

“The New PR” landscape demands that companies make their top talent accessible and available for comment and criticism on a moment’s notice. If that doesn’t happen to fit an executive’s schedule, today’s writers will just gather quotes from available sources: like blog posts and social media chatter. When you and your company fail to maintain a library of easily accessible, digestible information for journalists and bloggers, you can expect outcomes like:

  • Speculation about your motives for staying offline as being secretive or stealthy.
  • Quotes from critics, competitors, or nebulous “analysts” who don’t really know or understand your game plan.
  • Not being included in the conversation at all.

It’s more common than ever for journalists to lean on blogging techniques and fast revisions to get their version of a story out before their competitors can. Likewise, bloggers with little formal professional training have earned roles in traditional newsrooms on the strength of their volume and velocity.

That means editorial courtesies—like confirming quotes or inviting a pre-publication response to a competitor’s allegation—have gone out the window. Instead of moaning about a writer’s lack of professionalism, build a war chest that includes:

  • A listening post to monitor what journalists are writing about you
  • A resource library on your website that explains, in plain language, your positions on key trends or topics
  • Strong social media presences for company executives and spokespeople that journalists can use to triangulate a position or source a quote in the absence of an interview.

It’s no longer enough to have a strong set of talking points; reactive communication simply doesn’t work these days. Success now means using integrated communication – telling your story directly to your customers, your market influencers, and the journalists that cover your industry. If the only time those audiences hear from you with a substantive message is when you’re on the defensive, they can’t advocate on your behalf.

Joe Taylor Jr. has produced stories about media, technology, entertainment, and personal finance for over 25 years. His work has been featured on NPR, CNBC, Financial Times Television, and ABC News. After launching one of public radio's first successful digital platforms, Joe helped dozens of client companies launch or migrate their online content libraries. Today, Joe serves as a user experience consultant for a variety of Fortune 500 and Inc. 5000 businesses. Twitter | Facebook | Instagram