10 Reasons Media Relations Will Get Easier in 2010

It’s that time of year again. Time for making predictions for the year to come. As I look back on 2009, I’m amazed by all the progress I’ve seen with regard to the evolving news industry, and the practice of media relations. Sure, some of it is negative, like all the layoffs and dying publications, but beyond all that, there’s a lot of optimism in both industries. For this post, I’m focusing on my 10 reasons media relations will get easier in 2010.

For those of you actively engaged in media relations on a daily basis, you know how difficult it is to get journalists interested in your stories. Most journalists are overwhelmed with pitches, they have more work than ever, and less help to produce content across an increasing range of media. As a result, many journalists have less time to field pitches – and less patience for off-topic or mass-distributed pitches.

That said, there are some promising signs to the old love-hate relationship between journalists and public relations professionals improving in 2010. Here are my prediction for the 10 reasons media relations will get easier in 2010:

1. Social Media: first and foremost, social media (i.e. Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook) make it easier than ever for us to connect with journalists outside of a static media database. We have more access than ever to what journalists are working on, what their preferences are, and how they like to work with PR people. Those of us that take the time to connect and build relationships with journalists through these new channels will find its easier to get attention when we need it.

2. Research Tools – beyond social media tools, there are a wide range of improved research tools for searching information across all online channels. Tools like Addict-o-matic, SocialMention or even Twitter Search come to mind. Then there are all the enhancements to traditional search engines in their shift to real-time. This translates to an ability to find more accurate information faster. Whether its stats to backup a pitch, an alternative interview source to serve up alongside your expert, or more detailed information about what a journalist is writing about, it’s all at your fingertips (whether you’re sitting in front of your computer, or tapping away at your iPhone, Droid or Blackberry – see #8).

3. Commercial PR Products – I recently evaluated all the leading media database products in the market (including Vocus, Cision, PRNewswire, Marketwire and some lesser-known and emerging offerings). I hadn’t looked at many of these products in a few years and was very pleased with the progress. Most solutions have adapted to serve our needs better as PR professionals, improving workflows to make our recurring tasks more efficient, while building in functionality that is more pro-journalist. For example, better data on preferred method of contact, journalist opt-ins, feeds of recent stories, more detailed “pitch tips” and the top feature of the year – integration of Twitter handles. If you’re using any of these products, you’ll be much better off securing resutls for your clients, while minimizing your impact on the whole “PR spam” problem.

4. Analytics – better analytics solutions, be it traditional Web analytics or emerging social media analytics toolsets, will better equip public relations professionals to measure the results of their pitch efforts. By leveraging analytics data, we can shift to a more predictable model where results can be more accurately estimated and measured for each pitch or release. How cool will it be to predict – accurately – how much coverage and subsequent website traffic you’ll be able to drive with a pitch?

5. Collaboration Tools – there are far too many PR teams managing media relations efforts across a static or shared spreadsheet. Whether limited by seat licenses or the limited resources of the internal IT team, not enough of us are using systems that are truly integrated across the team. More and more organizations are finding cost-effective collaboration tools for managing PR efforts across the team – this reduces duplication of effort and helps the team learn which contacts are most responsive to pitches. There are also some new services launching that let PR people team up to collaborate on pitches across agencies, providing better “group pitches” for journalists. This is a great sign for progress on our side of the equation.

6. Diminished Reliance on the Press Release – improvements in the distribution format of news, such as social media releases or short-message pitches (i.e. Twitter pitches), give PR professionals more options for quickly getting news into the hands of the most interested journalists. Rather than provide them everything upfront, these tools make it easier to abbreviate pitches and leave it up to the journalists to click through for more information (all of which can be tracked – as described in #4).

7. Expanded Media Options – we are no longer limited to print, broadcast and websites for our media targeting. A quick tweet from a journalist can be just as valuable to our PR results as a full-page article in the Sunday paper. Adapting to this new range of influence is essential to driving results across new and emerging channels. Don’t underestimate alternative mentions when a journalist can’t write a full-length article.

8. Mobile and the Rise of Location-Aware Apps – next year’s list will include augmented reality, for this year, we’ll just focus on the rise of mobile and location-aware applications. Let’s use a real-world example of a tradeshow floor. In the past, you might stand around the press room looking at color codes on name badges, hoping to score five minutes with a journalist between his/her meetings. Now, using location-aware mobile apps, you can find journalists in close proximity that are tweeting from the event or enjoying cocktails at today’s post-show reception. This is just one example, but the opportunities to connect in new and exciting ways is here.

9. Improved Distribution – while I’m firmly against mass distribution, evolving technologies for dynamic “targeting” of contacts can help us better target relevant information to journalists, while working around the intricacies of exclusives and preferential treatment of news. Integrating best practices for email marketing – particularly in organizations with large media relations efforts – can help both in terms of serving journalists better, but also improving success ratios (conversions of pitches to placements). If you’re not currently segmenting your distribution lists or looking into rules-based web marketing automation platforms for your PR efforts, put this on your to-do list for 2010.

10. Improved Filtering – journalists are learning how to better manage and process information. For the truly overwhelmed journalists that had resorted to building complex email filters and PR blacklists, this means many of them may be more receptive to pitches again. Reputation-based systems (like the one we’re working on) or social networks that give journalists access to reliable information on us, helps them respond faster to our requests. They can more accurately gauge who among us is a reliable source, and who regularly “spams” journalists. As journalists are better equipped to filter out “PR spam”, those of us with “good” pitches will see better response rates.

Conclusion

Could there be a better time to be working in public relations (or journalism for that matter)? We’re in the midst of an exciting transition that all of us will benefit from. For these 10 reasons, and hopefully dozens more that you’ll share, I remain optimistic that 2010 will be a great year of progress for media relations professionals.

What do you think? What developments will make media relations easier in the coming year? Are relationships between journalists and PR professionals getting better?

About Jeremy Porter 214 Articles
Jeremy Porter has been passionate about the intersection of public relations and journalism since studying both Public Relations and Journalism at Utica College of Syracuse University in the late 90s. Porter launched Journalistics in 2009 to share his ideas and insights around both professions and how trends and developments in modern day marketing, communications, and technology impact those working in these fields. Porter also values the traditions and history of both professions and regularly shares his perspective in these areas - and related topics geared toward the next generation of journalism and public relations professionals.

19 Comments

    • Yes, you’re 100% right – it’s not an either/or. While many are working on it, social doesn’t have the syndication benefits of traditional wires. However, traditional wires don’t have the sharing capabilities of SMRs. Similarly, some distribution platforms perform better from an SEO perspective. Choose your weapon depending on the best fit for your news.

      Thanks Jerry.

  1. Another factor for 2010 that will make life easier is improved measurement of PR-SEO.

    As more PR firms drive SEO value (through backlinks and blogger outreach), clients will see their organic traffic rise even months after a PR initiative has been completed. Clients can justify allocating more budget to PR if they’re using tools like Google Analytics to measure search traffic and correlate it to PR initiatives.

    • Of course, measurement remains a top priority. That’s where I was going with “analytics” – but I realize measurement goes beyond that.

  2. Great article, Jeremy. A note on Reason #1 – Social Media is a two-way street. In addition to more accessibility to journalists, the journalists will have more accessibility to you as well. If you’re getting a lot of attention in social media channels then journalists will be more interested in your product or service. Also, Twitter accounts like @HelpAReporter allow PR professionals to be more proactive in contacting journalists who are looking for specific topics instead of mass-distributed pitches.

    • You know, I was thinking that I should have addressed that. That’s exactly why many of these options work so well – it’s no longer a “talk at” approach, but more a “talk with”.

  3. While the technology for media relations pros has vastly improved, I remain very concerned about the continual downsizing at newspapers, magazines and broadcast. For example, at least four New York Times reporters (all veterans of legal, business and metro) who I’ve placed stories with over the past 20 years, just accepted buyouts.

    The role of the PR professional has changed in the last two years. Newspaper out of business? Okay, then we need to create thoughtful content for our clients’ blogs, websites and social media properties. Local television cut back or dimmed the lights? Then we need to record our own video interviews with clients and get them on YouTube, blogs, and other websites and social media pages like Twitter, Digg, Posterous, Facebook and others.

    If the media outlets are disappearing and shrinking, then PR people must step in and help create good content if they want to raise visibility of clients and defend reputations. Technology will help everyone be more efficient, but in 2010 and beyond, the quality of the content will matter most.

    And more than ever, that content must pass the “who cares” test.

  4. I agree with Rich Klein 100% — I don’t see media relations getting better at all, though. With thousands and thousands of journalists — both print and online — losing their jobs in 2009, the windows of opportunity are getting dramatically smaller.

    While I discussed this trend forcing publicists to “become their own wire services,” if there are less reporters to pitch your story to (and sometimes none), some important stories and messages will not see the light of day.

  5. Jeremy, this is some good insight, a lot of things are emerging to make everyone’s life easier whether it is a PR person or a journalist – looking forward to utilizing all the new tools in 2010.

  6. Thanks Jeremy! Really great article! I am very interested in #8 – mobile and location-aware mobile apps. Which do you suggest using?

    I will be working with a client at a tradeshow and your example on using location-aware mobile apps to find journalists in close proximity couldn’t be more timely for me. I would love to use this while I am there.

    Thanks again,
    Danielle

    • Danielle: for starters, if you use an iPhone, I’d use the “Nearby” feature to see tweets near you (while you’re on the show floor). It’s not foolproof, but it’s a start. Second, I would download and use FourSquare. Update your status (and Twitter) with where you’re going, where you’re at, and where you’ve been over the course of your trip. Depending on your following, you may interest/attract some people to reach out to you (and discover some journalists). If you have journalists in your networks, you can upload them into solutions like this (provided you want to know where journalists are hanging out).

      Of course, a much simpler and obvious option is to follow the #hastag for the event, see which journalists are covering the event and reach out to them that way – but that’s so 2009. 🙂

      • I have a Blackberry Storm…your suggestions are super helpful. I will look into FourSquare’s mobile site and other apps.

        Yes, I’ve used the #hastag for tradeshows in the past, but definitely interested in location-aware apps. So cool!!

        Great article! Thanks again!
        Danielle

  7. Great post! There is no doubt that technology will help us. But don’t forget the fundamentals. All the technology is the world is not going to get you better, higher quality coverage. It’s about targeting, storytelling and follow up. Know the beats inside and out and the tendencies of the reporters. Knowledge is key. The media respects that you follow them; opens up more opportunities than any software. I hosted an IABC sponsored panel in Philadelphia last week where leading national and local journalist were bemoaning the fact of PR’s over-reliance on Tweets and SMS to pitch stories. In fact, they went on to say that it has degraded both the story telling and relationships. So much so some agency have been blackballed for stupidity. I am no Luddite. I am tweeting, blogging and connected with media in PR 2.0 fashion. We just need to remember the fundamentals matter.

  8. Hi

    I was surfing the net today for PR practitioners and journalists to chat to about their involvement in media relations since the change in the media landscape. I came across this blog and noticed blog entries on the topic area.

    I’m interested in finding out how careers has changed since the rise of social media in expression to media relations, and the amount of time dedicated to journalists/PR pro’s etc.

    If you could be so kind to chat to me via an online chat room, such as msn (this would save me hours on transcribing the interview) it would be very useful. I have a list of questions that could be e-mailed to you prior our chat.

    If this is something you would be interested in, It would be deeply appreciated. I’m interested in talking to as many people as possible to provide greater depth into my research. Get in touch with me via e-mail@ matthewjwills@hotmail.co.uk to arrange a suitable time for you to chat.
    Kind regards,

    Matthew Wills

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