PR and media – great relationships and knowledge is power

PR and media – great relationships and knowledge is power

Charlotte Stoel

Charlotte Stoel

Yesterday I noticed this post by Mark Kobayashi-Hillary, an influential blogger and journalist, discussing the PR industry from a media point of view. In summary, he questions the role of the press release in the age of Twitter. He says that he rarely looks at releases and is more likely to pick up a story from social networks where discussions break in real time.

It’s always interesting hearing from the other side about what works and what doesn’t. As a PR, I can confirm that Twitter and social networks are something that the majority of our profession are comfortable with already.

It’s clear that maximising channels such as Twitter is the best way to strike up and maintain a relationship with a growing number of Twitter-centric media contacts. However, it’s important to remember that not all media are on Twitter and knowing their contact preferences before reaching out is best; and that press releases serve their function, too. There is room for both the press release and the Twitter pitch to co-exist and compliment each other.

Whether you are communicating on email with a press release in tow, or via Twitter with a 140 character limit, you need to capture the media’s attention and get to the point within the first few lines. Few people have time to wade through pages and pages of information to find news. When I started at Firefly, it was stressed to me how important it is to know and maintain relationships with media; I haven’t stopped gaining knowledge and building these relationship since. By the way – how are you Mark?

This post was written by Charlotte.

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  1. Mark Kobayashi-Hillary
    Mark Kobayashi-Hillary

    Hi Charlotte, thanks for linking back to my post. First off, it wasn’t an attack on the whole of the PR industry – as some have indicated. It was just me expressing frustration at a few PR interactions, some of which I had outlined in the blog post. It’s also true – as you mention – that not all of those on the journalist side of the fence are all that clued up. You are absolutely right to talk about a good PR professional knowing how each individual journalist likes to interact.

    I would argue though, that the press release is approaching the end of a useful life, even if it is not quite there yet. There is a very different dynamic in news today and many of the barriers between journalist and PR are being broken down. The journalists need good access in order to get good stories so they need PRs that they know and trust, so this is not just about the PR industry having to change – media as a whole is changing.

    Some would argue that this has always been true, but then take a look at the writers using Twitter today. It has become a research source with some journalists outlining their stories before and as they are being written, asking people to pitch in with comments. If the PRs are not proactive and engaging with those journalists then they won’t get any coverage for their clients because the press releases will be sitting filed in a spam folder.

    1. I guess I broadly agree with Mark that the press release as a means of breaking or gaining media interest in a story is in inevitable decline. However, I think an online archive of press releases – essentially a timeline of company announcements on their web site – will remain useful. I often peruse these as a means to see what a company I’m not familiar with (or haven’t checked out in a while), has been up to in the past year or so. A glance down the list of headlines can often give you a far quicker, better insight into recent company strategy, operations and positioning (supplemented, of course, by a trawl of more independent sources…) than, say, their annual report.
      And if PRs are using social networks to announce stuff, they still generally need to link to a page with more details, so there’ll still be a need for the ‘press release’ in that sense, whether or not that’s what it’s called.
      But what I think Mark’s talking more about – and I agree with him totally – is that the scattergun approach of emailing press releases is becoming less and less effective, and PRs will increasingly need to become more knowledgable about the sectors they represent and cultivate genuine relationships to gain journalists’ trust and attention. (I’ve had “press release” as a spam filter term for almost a decade.)

      Then again, who’s to say journalists will have enough influence in future to merit the effort!

  2. Hi Charlotte (and Mark),

    Speaking as an editor I think Twitter and press releases actually augment each other very nicely in a number of ways. However one thing which makes life easier for people using Twitter, but which many PRs and marketing depts. don’t do, is having a press release hosted somewhere online prior to its dissemination.

    For example if I receive a press release from a PR which I think is worth passing on but about which I don’t myself necessarily have the time to do anything in full – ie the equivalent of a re-tweet – I would love to be able to tweet out the salient points to our followers and then include the URL to the full release in the tweet, so people wanting to find out more aren’t left with a 140-character headline and nowhere to go. It’s amazing how many press releases I get that aren’t to be found in full anywhere (linkable) on the net.

    Similarly for people looking to get their news out over Twitter, simply sending out the news itself within the 140-character limit with no URL for more info is like sending out a press release with no contact details.

    Just my tuppence-worth.

    Jamie Liddell

  3. I think there’s a real danger that Twitter could become as spam-oriented (when getting news) as the humble press release.

    If you don’t often maintain and overhaul the people you’re following, you can easily gloss over important information if your eye doesn’t fall on it – the same way as with press releases.

    I get annoyed by press releases that are clearly nothing to do with my job role – mostly because there’s no easy way to filter the good ones I actually need to read from the bad, short of blocking the annoying PR’s email address. (And even then they often sneak through).

    I think Charlotte’s point is spot on though. A well-developed relationship will lead to two things: a warmer reception from a journalist that recognises the PR’s intentions are generally going to be correct, and more willingness to read the email entitled ‘Analysis shows X people do x daily with some company’.

    The press release spam isn’t a problem, it’s an annoyance that will be around for many years, so if a PR is capable of reaching out via both a press release (often with critical information to a story) and also alert the journalist via Twitter or other medium that it’s probably something they should look at (and be right) then that only makes my job better and ensures better coverage for relevant clients.

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