February 11, 2019

Top Tip for Media Relations Success in 2019

The continuous evolution of media relations—the game has changed!

Posted on February 11, 2019 by anstice communications

Times are changing in the media landscape—newsrooms are shrinking, the impact of social media is growing, the rise of “fake news” has damaged the public’s trust in the media, and technology advancements are forcing us to adapt faster than ever before.

“The social web has energized public relations in the last decade, and mastering its use to manage issues and relationships online has helped many professionals break out of the media-relations ‘box.’” CPRS, The Elevation of Public Relations

For public relations professionals, understanding and adjusting to the current trends is crucial for continued media relations success. More importantly, a failure to adapt doesn’t just mean failed media efforts—it can now cause damage to your brand.

Top tips to stay on top of your media relations game in 2019:

Focus every media pitch on the needs of the consumer

Getting noticed in today’s media climate is often a reward for only the most creative and strategic PR pros. Best practices once asserted that effective pitches target journalists’ preferred beats. But, diminishing newsrooms have resulted in more generalist reporters who are under increasing pressure to rack up clicks.

Media face the very real challenge of presenting themselves and their publisher in a way that earns public attention. Make this challenge easier for them by knowing what’s on the public’s radar and presenting satiable story angles accordingly.

Focus your research and craft your pitch on what the end consumer wants to read and what your target journalist(s) want to write.

Keeping up with trending hashtags, viral videos, news stories, and other cultural references is key to pitching stories that stand out. Keeping your finger on the pulse of society’s collective consciousness is also central to getting your audience’s coveted attention.

Expand your media relations toolkit beyond the press release

Though still relevant, the popularity of the press release has declined substantially over the past few years.

Traditional TV, radio, and print aren’t the sole gatekeepers of information anymore. These mediums aren’t dead, but the world is now fully leaning in to the digital era. While some of us, ahem, still prefer to hold a hard copy of our favourite magazine or newspaper, the majority of people use their preferred digital device to feed their desire for breaking news.

The fragmentation of media won’t stop any time soon, so it’s wise to not put all your eggs in the earned-media basket.

Paid and owned media, including influencer relations, should be seen and understood as an important mode of information dissemination.

Earned media should serve to support these efforts. In a world dominated by advertisements, it is still considered to be one of the most credible sources of information.

It is also worth investing in content that goes beyond the written word. Visual media will dominate all communication channels as we progress further into the smartphone revolution—a direct result of our shortening attention spans.

Use links to your advantage
Speaking of press releases, have you heard of backlinking? Simply put, it’s a way to boost your page’s credibility and strengthen your search engine optimization (SEO) ranking by having external websites link back to your page.

Since more and more media coverage is secured online—a newspaper’s website or a blog, for example—press release SEO should be incorporated into your strategy.

Make sure your press release includes links to your client’s page and other relevant sources of information. A reputable media outlet will have a strong SEO ranking which, in turn, strengthens your client’s.

When it comes to links, remember that it’s quality over quantity. Focus on sharing newsworthy information; too many links can hurt an article’s SEO ranking and turn readers off.

Be aware of current social and political narratives
The polarization of the media has become increasingly obvious over the past few years. The public is now hypersensitive to politically influenced messaging, and even messages that aren’t intended to have political undertones can be perceived as social commentary.

The term “outrage culture”has emerged to describe sensitivity to content in this age—understanding the social and political narratives of the time is a necessary proactive measure to minimize potential backlash and build trust with audiences.

Despite being risky territory, it can also be an opportunity to stand out in the crowd. Nike’s campaign with Colin Kaepernick showed solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement—a perfect example of political messaging done right.

In contrast, look no further than Gillette’s well-intended #MeToo inspired campaign for an effort that resulted in divisiveness and criticism within the target audience.

While success can be found touching on “hot” topics, sometimes the best option is to opt out of the conversation completely.

Take Super Bowl LIII—many companies approached the biggest advertising opportunity of the year by “playing-it-safe”, a definite departure from the political and controversial Super Bowl commercials we saw in 2017 and 2018.

A good rule of thumb is to never force a political angle for attention if it’s not wholly organic to your brand positioning and messaging.

Ever the changing environment, media relations is still fundamental to a brand’s public relations efforts. However, its definition will continue to transform with the times ahead. Change can be hard, but don’t resist it, embrace it—it’ll keep you ahead of the curve.

Shelby Wong is the Public Relations Coordinator at Anstice Communications, Canada’s leading boutique agency specializing in meaningful growth and FX.

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