Friday, May 11

Changing Media: PR Pros Need To Follow

While more public relations pros (those that aren't too niche) know the scope of their work exceeds media relations, it's still important to keep up with some of the changes journalists are making every day. Recently, Ragan's PR Daily highlighted one change. Phone interviews are becoming past tense.

Ragan Daily cites a number of reasons that this is becoming true, including the relative ease of finding sources on social networks. But even more than that, most people (reporters and sources) agree that email interviews can sometimes be more efficient.

Every question is laid out. Every question is answered. The margin of error in misquoting someone is almost eliminated. And there are no wasted minutes trying to navigate the chain of command to sync something as a schedule to make the call.

The trend can easily be debated. There are plenty of reasons reporters would want to conduct a phone interview or possibly conduct one in person (especially if they want to sniff out a better story). There are also plenty of reasons a client might want one too (it creates a better opportunity to establish a rapport).

Journalists are evolving beyond email interviews too; public relations pros take note. 

When Bruce Spotleson, publisher of Greenspun Media, spoke to my Writing For Public Relations class a few months ago, he was very clear about changes that are occurring in journalism. And much of it doesn't sound like journalism as most public relations pros were introduced to it.

Nowadays, journalists are asked to consider the tone of a story for the web as well as print. All of them take cameras wherever they go. Most of them are armed with video cameras (or smart phones too).

Understanding social media is an absolute must. Not only do they use social networks for sources, but they listen intently — looking for potential stories, trends, and the occasional dust up. The idea that journalism is somehow separate from the Internet anymore just doesn't ring true.

Along with a more visible presence online, many are being asked to be more presentable offline. I'm not talking about suits and ties like journalists wore before becoming an acknowledged profession. But I am talking about being presentable enough to appear on camera or, on occasion, bring eyewitness testimony to bear on specific events. Even if the paper never runs the video, all of it makes for great archives.

All in all, the future journalist is going to be much more malleable with the times, virtually fusing the distinctions that people used to see between print reporters and television news teams. In the very near future, they will be one and the same with some emphasis on web trends.

Right, newspapers are tracking web trends with IT departments making suggestions based on which stories are read, how long they are read, and how much they are shared. While this doesn't necessarily mean reporters won't use old-school strategies for investigative pieces, it does impact the general fodder that is published every day — and might even impact which sources are chosen long term.

Where public relations professionals ought to take note if they haven't already. 

Ten years ago, it was relatively easy to distinguish strategic communicators (e.g., corporate communications) with public relations. Strategic communicators were most commonly generalists in their practice. Public relations professionals were generally specific, with an emphasis on external communication to specific publics (of which the media were one).

Anymore, it's not so easy to tell the difference. Public relations professionals and corporate communication professionals pass tasks back and forth all the time. And who is responsible for what is more dependent on the employer than the field.

Still, I don't think corporate communicators will be the driver to change public relations. I am starting to believe media will be the driver. If journalists become multifaceted professionals who are social media/social network savvy, video proficient, and occasionally offer on-air commentary, then it stands to reason public relations professionals will have to match those skill sets and then some.
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