Tuesday, October 27

Pitching Wind: Public Relations


"The traditional one-way media model has definitely had its day. So agencies are talking to clients about these engagement models much more." — Sam Lucas, chair of Burson-Marsteller to Adweek.

With consistency, public relations practitioners, even those who shrugged off social media earlier, are giving up on pitches and turning toward directly engaging consumers through original content they and their agencies are creating. And why not?

Diminishing Circulation Feeds Social Media For Now

According to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, 379 remaining daily newspapers had a total circulation of 30.4 million, down 10 percent since April. Sunday papers were not exempt. Of 563 daily newspapers, circulation had dropped to 40 million, down 7.49 percent. Magazines don't fare much better.

However, reactionary planning might backfire in the long run. Mark Hass, CEO and partner of MH Group Communications, who told Adweek that traditional media is a lot less important than it used to be, might be describing an accurate view of media today. But what about tomorrow?

The papers that remain, especially those that are moving to electronic platforms, will still be there tomorrow. One recent study shows that print publishers are very keen on the next step in distribution. And that distribution model will one day be mobile.

• More than 80 percent of newspaper and magazine publishers believe people will rely more heavily on mobile devices as a primary information source in the next three years.

• Nearly 70 percent of respondents agree that mobile is receiving more attention at their publications this year than last. More than a third believe their publication already has a well-developed plan for attacking and conquering the mobile market.

• Forty-four percent of respondents who track mobile’s impact on their Web site traffic said the devices increased visits by up to 10 percent today. Half believe mobile traffic to their Web sites will increase by 5 to 25 percent in the next two years.

If publishers diminish the cost of print (despite the majority of publishers wanting a print-electronic solution) and readers overcome mobile setbacks, some publications may flourish.

Restructuring Public Relations Firms May Diminish Their Value

Not always, but often, the pubic relations industry was commanding higher retainers than social media. So firms that throw too far into social media may diminish their own value as their media relations function becomes devalued over time. Worse for them, an overemphasis on direct-to-consumer communication, which was typically seen as a function of marketing, could seriously shift the practice toward astroturf or content resembling the modern press release (most of which are unreadable).

At the same time, newspapers that do survive and adapt with better mobile solutions may develop very different relations around public relations, thereby cutting out what some journalists consider client-side gatekeepers. And in some cases, journalists who work for re-emerging news teams might even remember which public relations practitioners kept the lines of communication open and which did not.

When you add it all up, the trends suggest an increasing need for an integrated team approach over attempts to control communication and marketing budgets. Simply put, public relations cannot afford to diminish the value of media relations to the point of alienation. After all, media isn't dying as much as it is being restructured. So what to do?

Consider the core functions of each discipline. Social media tends to work best in delivering customer-centric content (sometimes with a customer service overlap). Marketing and advertising work best in focusing on prospect-centric demand creation. And public relations tends to work best in reaching publics beyond the customer. Sure, overlaps exist around every corner, but recognizing priorities is still important.

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