The idea then was that the web would kill PR agencies. Well, that’s not true. Traditional PR isn’t dead in that sense. What is dead is the notion of media relations as the cornerstone of traditional PR. Media relations continues to diminish in importance. And soon it won’t be important at all. The evidence is everywhere, yet many PR professionals continue to believe that media relations is the primary communications channel for building brand, attracting customers and creating awareness.
If you’re spending time building programs to attract the press – then you’re wasting your time. Newspapers are dying. Magazines are folding. News staffs at every major and minor news outlet have slashed staff and budgets. Trust in traditional media has never been lower. Yet there’s never been more information, more access to it, and more opportunities to produce it.
The reason media relations was the cornerstone of PR for so long is because of what it could deliver – access to potential customers. PR people worked with reporters and editors to place their clients in news and feature stories so that thousands – maybe even millions – of readers could learn about their products and services. And hopefully, a handful of them would buy something.
That model is in intensive care – and we should pull the plug. Media relations was always risky and difficult to measure in terms of success. When you hand your story off to a reporter – you loss control of it. Most companies end up being unhappy about media placements – even placements that PR people crow about. The complaints are always the same: “They got it wrong.” “They missed the most important part.” “They spelled the CEO’s name wrong.”
If PR people are honest for a minute – they know that a media placement is hit or miss. And sometimes it causes a lot of stress. Because if there is a mistake in the copy or even if the tone is wrong – the PR team gets blamed for it.
So don’t do it anymore. Stop collecting media “hits” as if they were a stamp collection and presenting them to clients as if they mean something.
You don’t need to talk to your customers and potential customers through a media filter anymore. As Social Media Pundit David Meerman Scott says in a recent blog post: “Don’t beg mainstream media to write about you.”
He’s right. You don’t have to. Tell everyone your story by speaking with them directly. The filters are unnecessary. Let us count the plethora of ways to engage face-to-face with your customers:
- Start a blog
- Create a Facebook Page or Group
- Become the answer man on LinkedIn
- Post presentations on SlideShare
- Start using Twitter
- Create a MySpace page
- Distribute videos
- Start podcasting
- Use RSS feeds
- Write an eBook
- Build a microsite for customers
- Create a wiki
- Start a user group forum
- Optimize your website for SEO
- Starting Digging or Stumbling
- Build an iPhone application
- Create an iGoogle widget
- Use virtual gifts on Facebook
- Join Flickr
And there are many more. If you start to showcase your expertise , if you begin to help customers solve their problems, or see their problems in a new light – they will come to you. If won’t always be easy. There will be bumps – and mistakes. But if you develop a well crafted strategy and a strong tactical plan to execute against, you’ll be able to reach those customers that are important to you. They will find you.
And these are the new skills necessary for a successful PR agency. PR agencies need to help their clients understand social media, discover the right platforms for them and then help them execute. These are the skills of PR agencies in the 21st century.
Media relations will still exist – but as a result of all the other work you’re doing. Because not only will your customers and potential customers find you when you engage on the web – so will the press.
Or what’s left of them.