Has public relations become stagnant and PR professionals irrelevant? Our guest blogger, Hannah Oiknine, co-founder of Babbler, thinks so. Read on to discover the challenges we’re facing today, and how we can become effective again. – Elena Verlee
The field of public relations has to evolve towards a much more holistic approach to adapt to the 21st century.
After two decades of stagnation, it is long overdue for the PR industry to experience the type of innovative disruptions that over the same period transformed the field of marketing. To understand whether technological progress will come to the rescue of public relations professionals, we must begin by analyzing the reasons behind the generalized PR transformation.
The relation between PR pros and reporters is more complicated than ever.
Here’s the reality of public relations that almost everyone in our industry is in denial about.
While the media has changed from a print mechanism to a mobile multimedia environment, PR remains stuck in the 20th century. As consumers, we want our news on demand, and in turn demand that credible journalists give it to us immediately. And we don’t just want written stories – we want video, audio, live feeds, in vivid color and HD resolution. We’d also prefer it digested into cool headlines, in 140 characters, in 6-second vines and matching quizzes. Now, journalists need all these tools of the trade and more. And how do PR pros reach them?
Phone and emails. Maybe a tweet.
Is it working? Our sources say no.
- According to the social newsroom network Babbler, reporters delete 75% of pitches from unknown publicists and from wire service press releases – without ever opening them.
- The Financial Times reports that there are 5 PR professionals for every 1 journalist in the US.
- A Forbes reporter can work on five stories/day – writing 2, editing 2 for colleagues and researching a feature story.
- Thanks to caller-ID, an unwanted call to a reporter can get you blocked and deleted, almost instantly. Bye-bye exclusive.
Media contacts databases don’t work alone. Reporters open only 3% of their emails, reply to only 1%.
Your pitch – no matter how targeted – is an interruption.
While content marketing expenditures have exploded around the world (more than $30 billion dollars globally in 2013 according to a study by Wishpond), PR professionals remain underfunded and neglected. Inbound marketing is no longer a buzzword; it’s a huge industry. By contrast only the equivalent of 0.16% of the average marketing budget is spent on public relations. More and more journalists try to bypass PR managers by talking directly to brands through social media.
PR managers are still desperately trying to establish contact with saturated inboxes while under pressure to be as reactive as 16-year-old Twitter users. The new challenge is to get engagement from reporters.
Additionally, the number of potential pitch targets is sky-rocketing.
With the growing relevance of bloggers and influencers, today’s media ecosystem is more complex and diversified than ever. On top of this, there is a multiplication of digital media platforms (e.g. websites, blogs, social media, mobile apps, online TV and radio, …) and file formats.
PR is still functioning like a “push” mechanism – and as a result PR pros are perceived as pushy, instead of persistently helpful in generating news.
We have on one side journalists who are frustrated and looking for other ways to source their stories (in a 2013 study by Yeltis, as much as 20% of media representatives felt “harassed” by PR professionals), and on the other, brands that are ready for innovation but need to be educated and encouraged by their PR teams.
Let’s reconnect PR pros and reporters.
Public relations need to evolve towards more comprehensive mode of functioning. By integrating digital and social media in their daily activities, today’s PR professionals tend to become the media community managers of tomorrow.
Faced with the development of online media communities and the saturation of traditional communication and distribution channels, what technological response is appropriate? The idea is to bring the right information to the right person at the right time, and the outdated tools such as spreadsheets and wire solutions often do more harm than good.
All hope is not lost. Companies can now switch from making annoying cold-calls to managing quality content. It’s the “push vs pull” debate. Instead of pushing email after email into overflowing spam folders, pull the media communities towards your content.
PR professionals must rely on tools that go further than the traditional contact lists and wire systems. To remain relevant amidst social media and marketing experts, they simply must apply the same strategy: to bring together and engage their media communities.
Hannah Oiknine is the CEO & Co-Founder of Babbler, the first real-time media relations platform for the digital age. Used by more than 250 brands and 30+ agencies worldwide, Babbler is the only opt-in network that lets media and PR pros instantly share news, content and messages on a single platform.
Elena is founder of a technology PR agency that works with startups to billion-dollar companies. She is passionate about helping marketers and small business owners with practical publicity strategies, which she's also using for her own bling flip flop company.
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