And I’ll explain. But I’d like to digress first and talk about the future of journalism. Italics mine because I have to laugh at the idea of forecasting the future.
Have you seen this special project in the New York Times, Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek? It is a gorgeously wrought work on the avalanche that happened at my former stomping grounds, outside of Stevens Pass in the Washington Cascades that tragically took three lives.
I can’t even call it an article. It’s a multi-media microsite with in-depth video interviews, long form text, and visuals to understand the topography and course of events. It approaches the story from inside, outside, and every angle possible. It would take about 20 minutes of your time to go through it thoroughly. I suggest you bookmark and explore it later. Here’s the link again.
Now, when we talk about the future of journalism, we hear a lot of different ideas:
- I’d call this masterpiece in the New York Times the future of journalism.
- Short form, small screen: But hold on, what about all those people on their commutes to work catching up on the news on their small screen?
So what is it? It’s all of the above. It’s customized experiences for those catching up on their PC at work, sitting with their tablet on the couch, or reading their phone on the small screen.
What does this mean for journalists?
In order to perform our jobs, we have to understand what is happening with people whom we want to influence to take action. Journalists are working in all formats or specializing in one or other. Whatever they are doing, we know they are pressed for time. They either have to pump out a large number of short pieces, or they are working on long form projects that have to publish soon after the event occurred.
Breaking news – media vs. influencer relations
Are they even trying to break news anymore? The story is broken by the first online influencer who happens to be near or close to the event at hand with a smartphone. Done.
Which means journalists aren’t breaking news anymore; they are looking for the most unique angle or interview subject. The playing field has been leveled between the influencers and the media.
What does this mean for PR?
At least five years ago, I began to migrate Big Leap Creative’s services away from what was primarily media relations for my clients.
A few things were happening:
- Journalists weren’t reading news releases anymore. I hear it all the time; at least once a day.
- Evolution of technology allowed journalists to find their own sources directly, without the aid of PR. Some of them don’t even want to work with us because of feared bias.
- Print media coverage, although highly coveted and an ego boost, isn’t delivering results like the online work we can do for them now. A print story lasts until the piece gets thrown in the trash. Online communications delivers results that have cumulative effects.
And the biggest thing: Journalists are no longer the only influencers. Anyone can be an influencer now. So why focus on media only? What’s the difference? They both have access to an audience you want to reach.
Why send a news release to a journalist and a regular old conversational email to an influencer?
What’s a News Release?
I can’t remember a time in the past decade I’ve had any pickup from a news release for any clients. No one wants to read your corporate propaganda. What’s with all the crazy formatting and this idea that we’re writing the article for the journalist? Completely antiquated.
What we do use the news release for is SEO. It can’t hurt to get it out to some distribution sites that provide links back to your digital assets. It’s worth the few hundred dollars to use a PR Web or PR Newswire. I know it’s a controversial tactic, but if you truly have a good message, and not just spammy promo crap, it does give you backlinks and SEO juice.
But please, stop asking your PR agency to crank out another news release on the upgrade of your manufacturing equipment; something in which only your mother and your CEO will take interest.
Start identifying those who have the audience you wish to reach – could be bloggers, journalists, someone with a big following a specific social network – it’s all the same – and create that relationship, and find ways to help them.
What do you think?