Media Relations vs. Influencer Relations

media relations vs. influencer relationsThere really isn’t a difference between media and influencer relations.

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?

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  • Danny Brown

    Interesting post, miss, and I agree – the line between media and what’s defined as media is no longer easily defined. Something brands and media outlets need to get on board with.

    One thing I would say about the influencer angle is it depends on how you’re defining “influencer” – the current approach is, like you say, an online influencer spreading a message to their fans and followers.

    But what if the current approach isn’t the one that gets the real results..?

    To be continued… 😉

  • rachelakay

    Good post, and I’m just here to comment on the press release part. While press releases are probably not relied upon as much as they were 20 years ago, they aren’t dead. We sent out a press release on a traditional wire service on Monday and received a lot of coverage and many requests for interviews with our client from the exact outlets we were hoping for. The problem with press releases is that they are misused by companies and people who have no real news to tell. They want the SEO value, and they can work for that if that’s the goal. Evolution is the key word.

    • Lisa Gerber

      Hi Rachel!
      That is great to hear – you actually got coverage off the wire with your target outlets? Or did you send a personal email to them? I’m just curious.
      I agree the news release isn’t dead. But I have had much more luck with personal emails and absolutely none off the wire other than SEO. I swear it’s not because of poor content either! :)

  • Mike Maney

    Good post. I took a similar angle in a presentation I gave awhile back on the erosion of individual comms/marketing functions:

    • Lisa Gerber

      Nice – I’ll check it out. Thanks, Mike.

  • R. Allan Reed

    Great point, Lisa. Yesterday, it was blasting written pablum at a lengthly list of magazines and newspapers. Today it’s parsing a media landscape to find the right audience and giving them information they need.

    • Lisa Gerber

      OOOOO. a new word for me – pablum. Thanks! also? Thanks for hanging out on my blog yesterday. :)

  • Manish

    Well this is a controversial topic to talk about but I agree with Danny, it totally depends upon who the “influencer” is and how is he/she breaking the news.

    • Lisa Gerber

      Absolutely, everything depends on everything. Each approach needs to be customized. Thanks!

  • Jennifer Vanderslice

    As a publicist, it really frustrating to decide whether to send releases or personal emails. I’ve had editors and writers give me sending the wrong one. They seem to all have their own set of rules. Then I read their headlines and think to myself, “Where are they getting these stories?” No wonder newspapers are failing at such a high rate! I’m not bragging, but my clients are a lot more interesting than most of news that their local media is putting out. Distribution sites seem to be the best answer outside of websites that specialize in news for specific audience.

    • Lisa Gerber

      I can’t imagine someone would give you a hard time for sending a personalized email! Some people just like to get all knickered up, you know? You can never win.

      I’ve found that to be most successful. If they want more, I provide a link to a news release I might have on Pitch Engine, or to a fact sheet. Thanks for stopping by Jennifer!!

  • Pressat

    Press releases are still great for product launches as you can set embargoes and provide most of the core details.

    • Lisa Gerber

      Hmmm, do you get pushback from journalists on embargoes? I find just sending them a personal email message works best – Telling them you have some exclusive information for them, but it’s not yet ready to go out to the public, and would you be interested? I can share more….

  • Ian McKee

    And according to Google the SEO value of news releases is pretty dubious… So it would seem even that value of news releases is decreasing.

  • Dan Janal

    Press releases are great for SEO. I typically get 300-400 pickups on my press releases via PR Newswire. Those pages are indexed on Google in several ways: by keyword, by headline, and by news. If a prospect sees my press release printed in the Sacramento Bee and posted on Google, that’s a good thing. Google also posts “news blocks” (my term) of breaking news on various keywords. My clients usually wind up here as well via the reprint from a news site. Finally, Google indexes permanently the original press release posted to PR WEB or PR Newswire’s site. These links do appear on searches for company names. In short, there are many good reasons to send press releases.