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 of the old love-hate relationship between journalists and public relations professionals improving in 2010. Here is my prediction for the 10 reasons media relations will get easier in 2010:
1. Social Media: first and foremost, social media (i.e. Twitter, Linked In, 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 it easier to get attention when we need it.
2. Research Tools – beyond social media tools, there is 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 it stats to back up 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 the 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 results 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 of 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 up front, 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 are 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.
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.