Imagine you’re a PR flack. OK. Don’t even take it that far. Let’s just say that part of your job means helping get the word out about your employer, your business, or your product.
Now, imagine that a media outlet that may be different from what you're used to dealing with but is a natural fit for your news placement writes you and says, “Hey. Send us your news. Do you have something you need to pitch? Send that, too. We want to help.”
What’s your response?
The obvious choice is to jump for joy with a smile on your face and your arms in the air yelling, “Yes! Yes! Yes!”
After all, it’s becoming more difficult to break through the noise and get outlets to hear you. Right?
Well, believe it or not, the obvious choice isn’t always the one that’s selected.
In fact, many so-called public relations practitioners aren’t as adept at branching out as you might think. Many do what they’re told based on “traditional” methods of seeking publicity. Unfortunately, we began leaving “traditional” behind over a decade ago.
I remember the first news release I had to deliver for a client back in the late 80s. There wasn’t email, and fax was still groundbreaking technology. The news release was created on this thing called a “typewriter.” It was then placed in an envelope, and I drove it to the GRENVILLE NEWS/GREENVILLE PIEDMONT building to make a physical hand off.
Today, the move to digital distribution is happening at lightning speed. Cases in point, in 2010, US NEWS & WORLD REPORT migrated itself to be primarily a web-based publication – with the exception of “special” issues, and NEWSWEEK published its last hardcopy issue on December 31, 2012.
AOL and its subsidiary THE HUFFINGTON POST purchased Patch.com in 2009 to build a network of hyperlocal reporting outlets that now number more than 850 communities nationwide.
See, information delivery and consumption are changing. That means that PR professionals have to change, too. In 2013, typing a news release and handing it to a writer at the local daily doesn’t cut it.
The practice of public relations has evolved. With emerging technologies and media advancements, there are a lot of new ways to reach audiences, attract notice, and to generally spread the word on a client’s behalf.
As public relations evolves, that means PR practitioners need to evolve, too. This column isn’t for the profession’s fresh faces. They already know about the new technologies. They essentially grew up with them.
This is for folks who have been in the practice as long or longer than I have. Recently celebrating the 11th anniversary of my 29th birthday and 20 years in the field, I know I don’t know it all. In fact, as I get older, I realize how much there remains to learn about so many things.
One thing I do know, though, is that while traditional methods of outreach still have their places, if we stick with those methods and don’t grow our own knowledge bases and skill sets and recognize new forms of media outlets, there’s someone younger, hungrier, and more innovative waiting in the wings.
Now, he or she won’t have the benefit of your background, experience, and strategic ability, but he or she will work longer hours for less pay, and be ready to take your place. Of course, clients will realize that the younger, hungrier, and more innovative person also lacks your strategic experience, but many will realize that comes with time and hand-holding and that their financial investments may pay better dividends in the long run because that new PR practitioner is ready to evolve with new innovations as they emerge.
All of that said, when someone offers you a new outlet, explore it. Learn it. See if it fits with your practice or with one or more of your clients. They’ll appreciate the fact that you aren’t just sitting on the sidelines as the pace of the game continues to pick up, and you’ll be able to play in a game that’s faster than ever.
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