It certainly feels as if a traditional approach to media relations is on a downward slide to oblivion. With so many ways to connect directly with prospects, customers, and influencers, many companies are questioning the investment in old-school earned media. Even social media-based PR has become pervasive enough to feel ‘traditional’ to some degree. And with sponsored content, native advertising and pay-for-play by-lines gaining in popularity, it’s understandable that many marketers are becoming more deliberate in figuring out how to best structure a long-term public relations campaign. But as we like to tell our clients, while digital strategies are an essential part of the marketing mix, traditional media outreach is still important. Here are five common myths about public relations in the year 2014 that are worth examining:
1) Traditional PR is becoming irrelevant. This is a very tempting myth to buy into because fewer publications are thriving; and because fewer reporters are employed by those publications, it calls into question readership and impact. We continue to see layoffs across the media landscape, and some trade pubs have closed their doors. Print readership is way down, but many of these publications have maintained or upped their commitment to digital content. All of this is not necessarily an indictment of earned media as much as it is the “printed form” of earned media, which we still feel provides tangible validation of a company’s products or services, and enables thought leaders to shape conversations. An independent analysis from a credible publication will always be taken more seriously than your own marketing. In addition, the search engines continue to value original “good” content from news outlets over sponsored articles.
2) Sponsored content is just as good as earned media. It is true that target audiences are looking for good content, regardless of where it is published and by whom. Still, editors are struggling to incorporate sponsored content into their online publications. They know it’s a nice revenue stream, but they are still hesitant to do anything that might confuse their readers by making native advertising look too much like their own writing. As a result, it often is marked with their own version of a scarlet A—clearly denoting it as a paid placement.
3) Get a good article placed, and everyone will see it. It wasn’t that long ago that a print publication would get passed around an office so that actual readership might be many times the circulation. Those days are long gone, and many trade pubs have shifted to online only. That means that the likelihood that an individual print article will be seen and viewed by the right audience is falling. Instead, today’s media currency is sharing through social channels as well as direct outreach. We tell our clients to aggressively market their earned media placements as much as possible, and every good PR program needs to have a solid social media strategy. That increases the chance that prospects see the article as you can’t just assume that the target audiences you want to see the content will stumble across it organically. In addition, the search engines and social media algorithms put a premium on those that get shared the most, guaranteeing that the article will come up high in search results and in social feeds.
4) You can’t connect media coverage with leads and sales. Marketing and sales teams struggle to show a direct connection between media coverage and new sales leads. At Bluetext, we think that you can make that connection and show the value of media outreach, and that any smart PR program will have those types of metrics integrated into their campaigns based on tying media coverage to business objectives. There are effective methods to drive readers to landing pages and microsites, where re-targeting and other lead generation connections can be made and measured. The key is being smart about the tools you use and the results you are looking for.
5) Traditional PR is slowly but surely going the way of the dinosaurs. This myth is probably closest to some version of reality, depending on how one defines ‘traditional.’ As I said earlier, print as a PR medium is declining, but there are still news sources for which media coverage can have impact. At the end of the day, good content is good content, no matter where it is published. Getting that good content to the right audiences means using all of the platforms—traditional and digital. No one can afford to put all of their eggs in one basket anymore. Campaigns must be integrated and coordinated for maximum impact.