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PR: Positioning for the new media order - Does the demise of traditional media spell doom for the PR industry?
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PR: Positioning for the new media order - Does the demise of traditional media spell doom for the PR industry?

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Traditional PR & marketing strategies are deemed by some to be no longer fit for …

Traditional PR & marketing strategies are deemed by some to be no longer fit for
purpose in the face of an evolving media landscape and new ways of interacting,
which are challenging old business practices. This paper argues that PR skills and
the use of content are actually ideally suited to this new environment.

Published in Business
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  • 1. PR: Positioning for the new media orderBy Justin Pugsley, Principal, JJPAssociatesTraditional PR & marketing strategies are deemed by some to be no longer fit forpurpose in the face of an evolving media landscape and new ways of interacting,which are challenging old business practices. This paper argues that PR skills andthe use of content are actually ideally suited to this new environment. Profiting from the digital revolutionPR versus marketing, which is most effective for growing a business, has become afamiliar debate and is often characterised by some bold statements such as when theHarvard Business Review bluntly declared last year that marketing is dead.Great news for PR professionals in the corporate pecking order as it looks like it is tilting intheir favour. But that was just the headline, because there is some bad news for PRprofessionals. The opening paragraph clarified that traditional marketing includingCopyright JJPAssociates March 2013
  • 2. advertising, public relations, branding and corporate communications.The reason for the demise is because the way consumers make purchasing decisions andconsume information is changing. Theyre even less inclined to believe claims made inadvertisements and a growing number are becoming apathetic towards marketingmessages.At the same time numerous studies have shown falling trust in the mass media. Thoughthe power of the big media organisations is still something to be reckoned with as anycompany on the wrong end of a negative story can testify.As HBR suggests this has left PR and marketing professionals in something of aquandary. The media landscape has become very liquid, therefore subject to rapidchange, leaving traditional business models exposed and vulnerable.Meanwhile, traditional media organisations are under existential threat with some resortingto lurid sensationalism in a bid to remain relevant and to boost flagging circulations. But inthe end they could be insuring their own decline as their credibility becomes shredded andtheyre seen as malign and offering little of value. Some blogs and online publications arealso treading a similar path in a bid for fame, glory and fortune.3 Attributes that favour PRYet despite these changes and the sweeping away of old certainties, this paper arguesthat PR professionals have 3 key attributes, which place them in a very strong position tothrive in this rapidly shifting media and consumer landscape. 1. They are used to building one-on-one relationships with journalists and this can betransferred to engaging with social media influencers. 2. They understand what makes and constitutes a news story and are therefore in abetter position to create news-driven content or take older content and reposition it. 3. They understand the dynamics of the media, its motivations and business models.Ultimately, they know it is about boosting circulation whether for driving subscriptions oradvertising and creating content that is of greatest interest to the audiences of thosemedia outlets.If anything the term Public Relations may be about to truly live up to its name asengagement moves beyond interacting with journalists.New languageThe clues to the changes in the media landscape can be summed up by some of the newbuzz words, such as engagement, sharing and connectivity. The rapid spread of web-enabled devices and social media platforms is rapidly changing the rules of the game.Consumers increasingly make purchasing decisions based on reviews and by requestingCopyright JJPAssociates March 2013
  • 3. the experiences of their peers, which can be shared across continents at lightening speed.Authenticity and personality are seen to trump the corporate façade, which is a turn-off tomany. For very large companies with their highly hierarchical management structures andstandardised procedures adapting to this new environment can be challenging, but notimpossible.For highly consumer-centric companies the shift in the media landscape has proved to bea golden opportunity as it raises the prospect of having consumers become champions forthe company and endorsements dont get much better than that.Among the big beneficiaries of this trend are micro-entrepreneurs and sometimes evenquite traditional businesses ploughing niche markets. Consumers can be very passionateover a favourite ale, a certain restaurant or even brand of clothing, for instance. Whatattracts these consumers is the personality of these companies, their strong values andeven their corporate culture, which if it is an attraction, is usually anything but corporate.We just want to be humanThe ubiquitousness of the Internet and more lately social media along with the proliferationof web-enabled devices has made it easier to do what comes naturally to humans – tocommunicate and socialise.It makes the quest for authenticity, shared experiences, relationship-building, collaborationand connecting with like-minded individuals easier. For the individual socialising hasmoved beyond the work place and the local community in the form of the pub, local sportsclub or church to being able to reach out to the whole world.But even in this more volatile and fast moving landscape there is still a very definite role forPR and marketing. Though media convergence is blurring the boundaries between the twodisciplines.If advertising, traditional PR and marketing are becoming less effective then the newparadigm is content in all its forms. Engaging and compelling content produced in a waythat informs rather than sells is what is likely to be most effective. This has given rise to theterm content-driven marketing, which is rapidly evolving into a discipline in its own right.Content-driven PRIf marketing is steadily capturing content creation where does that leave PR and is theresuch a thing as content-driven PR? This paper argues that there is and that it can beenormously valuable to PR professionals and their organisations who know how to createand distribute it.An immediate response might be to classify news releases as a form of content-driven PRand there is indeed an element of truth in that. Though of course theyre increasingly usedfor marketing purposes such as for promoting favourable search engine rankings anddriving traffic to websites rather than just for generating stories in the media. Therefore, agreat number of news releases do not actually represent usable news for the media.Theres growing evidence that marketing has hijacked the humble news release for itsown purposes. Theres a trend for marketeers to use news releases as a cheaperalternative to paying for expensive key words on Googles AdWords pay per click service.Copyright JJPAssociates March 2013
  • 4. However, theres a lot more to effective content-driven PR than news releases. In apractical sense, the terms content-driven marketing and content-driven PR are closelyrelated and this type of content can be especially powerful when it combines the best ofthese two disciplines. But there are some key differences between the two.Not all content is created newsworthyFor a start not all content is newsworthy though it might be extremely useful to a certaintarget audience. Consider for example, a set of free do it yourself video guides which helpsolve a common problem for a particular audience. They might be useful, but may notactually reveal any new information that would be of interest to a journalist or a news-driven blogger. However, using a news release to announce these videos to the world isstill a valid strategy especially when done by a press release distribution service.A PR person would argue that the story there is that these helpful guides now exist, butwhether that gets any traction with the media depends on a number of factors, such as theauthors fame and is it really any different from other solutions already out there. In manycases there simply isnt story or anything that new to catch the attention of the media.So in effect some content is newsworthy, some of it can be tweaked to be a news story,but there is a subset, which doesnt necessarily represent anything new, but is nonethelessuseful to certain audiences.More visibilityYet when content, such as a report or white paper, is picked up by the media, especially bywell regarded publications, it can add a lot of credibility along with raising awareness,particularly for smaller less known organisations. It also reinforces thought leadership,which is critical for consultancies. They often obtain enquiries or win contracts on the basisof their ideas and knowledge.White papers, special reports, podcasts and short videos are the bread and butter ofmarketing for many other businesses such as software companies and fund managers.3 characteristics of PR-driven contentThere are 3 key characteristics, which makes content work for PR purposes: 1. It must have news value. Explaining a trend or event with a forward looking bias works as does content that explains why a completely new trend is about to begin. 2. It should be original and compelling, possibly based on a survey or some other research. Positioned in this way content can now fulfil two roles of being of use for PR and marketing purposes. 3. Another important role for content is to help build the social capital of influencers such as bloggers. Theyre always on the look-out for content to pass on to their network.Copyright JJPAssociates March 2013
  • 5. Many PR professionals have a background in journalism or have other media skills andshould be well suited to being able to create content or to at least manage the process.Food for thoughtIn some cases it might be down to taking an older piece of content and repositioning it oradding an update to make it relevant to a current news story. For instance, a food qualitycontrol firm might have produced a white paper or one of its executives might haverecently given a conference speech about quality control, managing the supply chain andverifying ingredients. That same content could be quickly updated and repositioned in lightof the recent scandal in the UK over beef being substituted with cheaper horse meat infood products.That may well be of interest not just to the specialist trade press, but given the magnitudeof the story, to the mass media as well. Its during a food scandal that interest in foodsafety and purity will be at its highest and it is also one of the best chances a food qualityfirm will have to get seen and heard.Under such circumstances, the media will be searching for answers as to how a scandallike this could happen, why it happened and how it can be avoided in future. Theyinevitably turn to experts, such as a quality control firm to explain the background to thestory and the possible solutions.At the same time retailers and food manufacturers will be looking to make sure they dontget caught out by such a scandal again and will want to reassure customers, regulatorsand the media that the labelling of their products conforms with what they contain.Blogging the newsAll companies should have some staff blogging on their behalf – if nothing else it makesthe company appear more human. And positive human qualities is what consumers aredrawn to, even in the more hard nosed B2B world.There should be strict guidelines as to what employees can write. But at the same time theguidelines should be balanced to allow those corporate bloggers to develop a recognisablevoice, such as being authoritative on a particular topic and even opinionated whereappropriate. That helps reinforce thought leadership and authenticity.Blogs are also an ideal way to respond to news events and there are countless examplesof timely reactions to the latest news by bloggers being picked up by the media and otherinfluencers. Some journalists actually prefer quoting from a blog rather than a newsrelease as it looks a little more exclusive and researched.Make it search friendlyThe other point about creating content with the potential to reach the largest number ofpeople in a target market is to build it around key words and what people search for on theweb and this is often inspired by the big stories of the moment. Secondary relevant keywords with a longer shelf life should also be incorporated.Its not only those impacted by the news who will be searching under specific searchphrases, but also journalists looking for sources for a story. This is where news distributionservices can be useful as some of them will get a news release into the Google NewsCopyright JJPAssociates March 2013
  • 6. search function, which is heavily used by journalists and bloggers seeking new contentand contacts.The power of socialAs discussed earlier social media is unleashing yet another wave of change in the mediaarena and in the way information is distributed. The emphasis on sharing and connectivitymakes it easier than ever before to reach target audiences directly and can by-pass thetraditional media entirely. Though in practice it is better to have the two working togetheras that amplifies the message and its reach.An article citing that content and published by a well known media outlet is likely to gainextensive reach on social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin. Thatcertainly helps with gaining reach, visibility and credibility.Social media channels are an excellent way to distribute all kinds of content with manysuch as Youtube, Flickr, Pinterest and even Facebook and Twitter ideal for sharing visualcontent. Great visuals and info-graphics have the ability to go viral very quickly.Slideshare is a great platform for reports and speeches and a good way to demonstrateexpertise in certain areas. Content on Slideshare tends to rank quite well in web searchesand is another way to demonstrate expertise and thought leadership.But above all content must be unique, useful and compelling, drive links from relevant andauthoritative websites, traffic and attract attention. Give a news-driven twist and thatcontent has an even better chance of achieving the above objectives.Organisations should think like publishers and besides creating their own content shouldalso aggregate other relevant news and share it via their social media outlets as this helpsbuild an audience.The PR function should be in a good position to create and distribute content. Failure todemonstrate leadership in this area could see PR-driven content referred to as News-driven marketing instead. JJPAssociates is a UK-based PR, social media & content creation agency and consultancy. For enquiries contact: justin@jjpassociates.co.uk For more about JJPassociates & free reports: www.jjpassociates.co.uk Follow us on Twitter: @jjpugsleyCopyright JJPAssociates March 2013