To many people public relations = media relations, and that includes practitioners. We have PR professionals that guard their media lists like gold and are looking for ways to quantify the value of their “clips.” Yet, at the same time they want to establish that Public Relations encompasses a broader scope of activities.
Practitioners who want more need to focus on strategy rather than tactics. I have nothing against media relations, but it is just one way for companies to reach their publics with their messages. I think practitioners have fallen into this trap because it’s relatively easy to quantify. Look, they say, this press release ran in a gazillion small newspapers and was picked up on websites globally. That means that more than 8 gazillion eyeballs saw your message and that’s why you pay us the big bucks.
Ironically, current evidence points to a diminishing role for traditional media. Readership is down. Staffing is down. Increasingly magazines and newspapers are closing down their print presence in favor of online media and turning to citizen journalists for news and content. In light of these trends aligning your business with traditional media may well bring about the demise of your practice. Yes, there will always be practitioners who have the ear of the top journalists at the best publications, but as for the rest of us? Better to focus on more ways to communicate your client’s messages.
Increasingly I see opportunities for companies to contact their prospects and customers directly — enewsletters, websites, webinars, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter all create ways to engage your customers in a dialogue and communicate your messages directly with the people your client/company most wants to reach. Not only are these methods direct, they are also measurable. Everyone is feeling the pinch of hard economic times and it is essential that communicators can show how our efforts support the sales function.
Sure, moving into new areas will take time and education. You need to be able to show your client that these methods are effective. You may also need to explain to them that any activity that influences their target audience’s perception of their company is public relations, not just media relations. It will benefit everyone.