Media Has Changed… It’s Time for PR to Catch Up

Let’s face it. If you you’re stuck with business as usual, this won’t be your year. Brands are racing to catch up with social consumers who have adopted new ways of shopping and recommending. And similar trends of change and adaptation hold true for the PR industry.

In the past, the PR professional led a relatively peaceful and predictable existence. Securing coverage mainly entailed forming close relationships with ‘A-list’ members of the media who reported on one’s company, industry, and competitors. Now and again, you could look beyond the typical rotation of journalists for new reporters covering related beats. Schedules were punctuated by the ebb and flow of editorial calendars planned far in advance. Time was measured in months, or years. Contacts were held in a single Rolodex.

Not any more. The world of media has irrevocably changed. Social media, blogs, and other self-publishing tools have sparked an explosion of content and voices ⎯ at a scale and pace we have never seen before. Over the next 30 minutes, approximately 22,000 blog posts will go live, 2.3 million Tweets will fly, and Facebook users will post 2.77 million status updates and 41 million pieces of content. Then, factor in the steady stream of online articles from traditional media outlets, and an untold number of niche sites and other networks. What’s clear is that PR is no longer an industry where one tracks a relatively small number of voices across a finite number of media outlets. PR professionals today are drowning in an endless sea of online voices. Their job has become exponentially harder now that the medium of the Internet has become the media.

Successful marketers still need to identify (and engage) the opinion leaders, Influencers, and voices who have the ear of their market. However, yesterday’s approach simply won’t keep up with today’s media landscape.

Traditional media monitoring can’t distill the significant voices from all the noise on the web today. Imagine creating a target list of contacts based on generic beats like ‘technology’ or ‘software’. The number of results would be simply overwhelming. And what is there to do with a huge list of 1,000 targets? Not much beyond putting together a generic email and blasting out a press release to anyone and everyone who has ever written anything remotely related to your market. In a word… spam.

In order to stay relevant, the PR industry has to evolve. It’s as simple as that. If not, the relationship between PR and media will become strained beyond repair, and any correspondence from a PR professional will be viewed in the same light as the latest Nigerian email scam. At best, your emails end up in the trash bin; at worst, they end up on a blogger’s ‘wall of shame.’

Fortunately, a new set of tools are emerging to meet the realities of today’s media landscape. These tools automate the ‘busy work’ so PR professionals have the freedom to spend their time building actual relationships with the people that matter to their market or their client’s market.

Influencer Measurement uses technology to identify which voices matter and then heuristically determine who is the most important amongst those voices. These tools do the following:

• First, monitor voices across all forms of media (online publications, Twitter, blogs…) to find the voices that are topically relevant to any given market. And by this I mean truly topically relevant, with enough granularity to differentiate between who’s writing about mobile coupons vs. RFID in the supply chain.

• Then take that pool of topically relevant individuals and determine which ones are the most influential…meaning which ones are most likely to spread your message and drive desired outcomes throughout your market. Such measurements are calculated using a variety of factors, including: number of readers/followers, frequency of writing, number and frequency of references, interviews, links, citations, and more.

Such influencer measurements can help marketers determine where to focus their efforts in order to produce the highest ROI. Given the sheer number of voices out there, a well-defined focus is key to success. This is all about finding the needles in the haystacks of today’s media.

After narrowing your target list to a manageable number, you can begin the meaningful work ⎯ the part that can’t be replaced by technology. This includes building creative outreach campaigns, and engaging with each influencer on a personal level. You now have the time to dig through each writer’s previous work to learn about his or her particular interests and angles, and to determine where your news or product fits in. It’s simply the only way you can move beyond generic communications (aka spam) and succeed in the new media world.

About Gary Lee

Gary presently is CEO of mBLAST, and has over 25-years experience in high-tech marketing, product management, development and executive management in various global telecom and high-tech companies including Nortel, Sprint, General DataComm and three venture-backed global startups.

At mBLAST, Gary is driving the company’s solutions to change how marketing identifies with, and works with, the individual influencers of its market who are daily shaping public perception of one’s company, product and services.

Learn more about the company’s mPACT product here.


    • Paul:

      Sorry you feel that way. We practice what we preach, and we’ve been studying this problem for a long time and developing solutions which are helping marketing professionals automate the steps listed above.

      We feel this is an important enough problem facing the industry that we’re out blogging, speaking and otherwise talking about the issues and potential solutions. And yes, as a software provider, we are also developing solutions that actually help people solve these problems.

      Gary Lee
      CEO, mBLAST

      • But Paul was right in his assessment that it was a thinly veiled pitch – and you seem to miss the point about PR and journalism changing.

        First, it’s not just about influencers, but community. You are touting influencer outreach, which is all dandy and good, but at the end of the day possibly (likely) not reaching the right community or people because too many firms get caught up in the influencer frenzy of social media.

        Second, PR has changed with journalism, at times outpacing journalism. PR embraced new technologies and ways to reach the public – the PUBLIC – through community relations programs that, at times, bypass the mainstream press or even blogs to reach the people in the streets. But blogs or Twitter or Facebook are not all there is out there, but that’s another discussion.

        The bigger punchline? Look at the most recent Web 2.0 launches: all done with VERY traditional PR strategies with mainstream press. So while the Web 2.0 world likes to attack PR as bad, blah blah … they come to us (not marketing or advertising) for launches.

        • Jeremy,

          Thanks for your comments.

          A few back thoughts back to you:

          a) You wrote “you are touting influencer outreach…..too many firms get caught up in the influencer frenzy of social media.” I will agree with your last point, that if influencer identification is not done properly, or it is about something “new and shiny”, then it can border on frenzy. That is not what we’re promoting here, or anywhere else we’re talking. We’re about finding the influential voices across certainly social networks, but also mainstream media, blogs, etc. We believe that you have to sort through all the voices, find the one relevant to you (and your marketing efforts) and then work to have those voices be your voices. That’s something the PR industry has done forever. It’s not “new and shiny”. “Discovering key voices” was relevant 20 years ago, and it’s still relevant today, just a lot harder due to the number and volume of voices to listen to instead of just the handful of “A list” press and analysts we used to care about.

          b) “it’s not just about influencers, but community”. Well, yes, but communities often / usually have influential voices within those communities. And communities often / usually have links between them and voices which communicate community-to-community. As long as we can find and measure these voices via the tools available to us, we can identify the voices that matter; and by engaging with them, we can have a chance to communicate and move the community.

          Our stance is that PR professionals today need to take a balanced view when evaluating new media and traditional media, and work to find the most influential voices amongst those voices. And to your point, yes sometimes these voices are far outside the traditional mainstream press or popular blogs. We support that concept in our product, and I’ve been pretty vocal on those points in our corporate blog and elsewhere.

          The truth is that the public relations practice is quite old, and while most PR professionals are starting to adapt (some better than others), many still operate using email blasts and dated media lists built around static beats instead of up-to-the-minute lists based on what people are actually saying, and the impact they are having. We think this is unacceptable, and are not alone in that opinion.

          Further, I detect you may be suggesting we are attacking PR Firms. Far from it. I worked within a global agency for years. I get the job of PR and I get how hard it is to do well. We’re here to promote new ideas, new ways of attacking problems and new ways to get results in a world that is changing rapidly across PR, product marketing, corporate marketing and even for the CMO. We’re being adopted by PR and marketing professionals around the world. Professionals that look at what we’re doing, see how we can automate the discovery and measurement of key voices and respond favorably.

          Hope my comments help and do not further flame. If the latter, respond here. I welcome positive discourse and debate around the world of marketing and how we can all improve how we work in this rapidly-changing world.


  1. I would want to remove the words “heuristically” and “granularity” from anything which might be seen by a journalist for fear of ending up on one of those spot-the-jargon blog posts that people love to circulate.

  2. My question is simple, Gary: Would you have written this blog for Journalistics if you weren’t trying to sell mPACT? The optimist in me says yes; the cynic in me wonders out loud.

    The true influencers are those who let their knowledge and experience speak for itself without sales pitches, open or veiled. The mere illustration of their work and ideas through social media is enough to draw many users, customers, disciples.

    Social media is a conversation with customers, breeding trust that can lead to sales. It’s not a straight sales pitch, even if it’s cloaked in a veil of information.

    • To be fair, Gary, your original post made many good points. I don’t want to sound like a dismissive attack dog here! 🙂

      • Yes. I would have. Because after 25 + years in marketing, some within an agency, I feel strongly that marketing has to do things differently to thrive. Marketing is as a challenging cross-roads, and it’s exciting.

        I regularly do speaking engagements with NO plug on our products whatsoever. Instead I talk about how the market has changed, how traditional methods using listening, beat-based lists, etc are obsolete, etc. I give my views. I enter into debate. I learn, I listen and try to make a difference where I can. I do the same in blogs, etc.

        And when I look at the points made above, the only place I see a “product pitch” is in the “learn about the company’s mPACT product…” Is your argument that true influencers can never have a “dog in the hunt” / product to sell? If so, I don’t agree.

        If John Doe had written the piece above would you call it a “thinly veiled” sales pitch? I think not. I think your issues are over the fact I am the CEO of a company that has developed a product that matches up to the things I talked about above — things that I would advise a marketing professional to be doing whether they used our mPACT product or not.

        Sorry you continue feel I am trying to sell and not give views. So it appears I am in a “no win” situation with you here. Any thoughts, opinions, wild pontifications I state about influencers, and what’s broken in marketing (and potential fixes) may be viewed by you under the lens of “oh, but he has a product to sell and is therefore unbiased.” I am passionate about this problem set and solutions. And I’ve turned that passion into also creating a product set and company.


        • See, Gary, here’s where you lost me.

          You gave a compelling response but here you start talking about your 25+ years of marketing. That’s great, but marketing isn’t public relations.

  3. Social media is hard to control. I have to say so.

    It is not if you deliver content there are going to have people watch it, it requires educational, useful, fun and great content to attract attentions from even tons of audience. Although so many information is flowing on Social media, including facebook, twitter, blog post, but all audience need to do is a simple comment or a click can send a terrible SM strategy to the hell. Audience has control, and how can PR lead public opinion. Not every opinion leader will always be right. By using bold behavior and humorous tone, they could get traffic, but also the chance to make mistake, by using conservative tone, they could keep safe but also, plain thing can not attract attention. How to decide what kind of content we could use in what kind of area is a question needs to think through before we actually dedicate to our careers. Not just about connecting to real life journalism experience, all they need to do is reporting facts, PR needs to make facts both fun and reliable.

  4. hi Gary.i loved the post and i also liked the criticism by paul becaude it made u bring out deeper almost personal feelings on the topic. i’m a 1st yr student of Marketing and i’m doing research on ‘the impact of e-media on business’ or ‘how e-media has changed the face of business.’ whats your take on that?

  5. It is the best time to make some plans for the future and it’s time to be happy. I have read this post and if I could I desire to suggest you few interesting things or advice. Maybe you could write next articles referring to this article. I wish to read even more things about it!

    • Foster – thanks for your comment. If you provide some specific topic suggestions, I will strongly consider adding them into the editorial calendar. While my posting schedule slowed down a bit in 2012, I am preparing for a big 2013 at the moment – lot’s of great content in the works for the New Year. Cheers!

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