In a time that doesn’t seem like so long ago, standing over a fax machine on deadline with your carefully penned missives to the Editor at a top tier publication, trying desperately to get the dial-up connection to work after the third attempt, was often the norm – it was character building stuff.
Since then, we’ve seen vast amounts of changes in the world of PR; but it hasn’t all been about the changes in technology.
Perhaps the biggest advance in PR has been the advent of the issues-based campaign. Fuelled by a reduction in editorial staffing at the majority of both print and online publications, the opportunity for thought leadership feature contributions has changed the ‘traditional’ news based approach to one that is far more complex and multifaceted. Contributed articles written by recognised freelance journalists can be favourably received if they meet the publications editorial criteria and are now a positive way of consistently keeping a company in the media even when there is an absence of news to report.
The opportunity for well thought through and executed thought leadership campaigns also now allow smaller businesses the opportunity to get a share of voice in the market as issues-based reporting is seldom about brand notoriety and the size of the company and more about the topic itself. Clearly most publications still drive the angle for the majority of features, but the ability to influence and contribute to the direction of the story has increased substantially.
News still has its place of course and arguably even more so these days as the sheer volume of outlets for news has increased as the multi-channel nature of news reporting has spilled into social media and beyond.
Love it or hate it, the arrival of social media created both opportunities and headaches in equal measure. The ability to control your own news and outreach agenda is compelling of course, but keeping the social beast fed is increasingly the bane within many organisations – especially the smaller companies. The seemingly disproportionate amount of time needed to generate enough compelling content to keep the posts interesting and fresh is a big challenge and one that can only really be met effectively with dedicated resource either in-house or outsourced.
But again, if PR activity is executed correctly, then the thought leadership content can be readily repurposed to help contribute towards the social activity. Using this joined-up approach combines all the channels to form a consistent outreach to the audience.
The speed of communication and the intra-day nature of media outreach today is in stark contrast the faxed press releases of yesteryear. As publications went from monthly in print to daily online, the need for content grew exponentially to keep pace with an ever shorter shelf life. Nowadays a story will rarely be on the top spot in the news section for more than a few hours until it is bumped for the next breaking piece. Even the feature sections have a more limited life span before they too get archived to other parts of the site. All of this means changing PR from a purely reactive and news-based activity into a proactive and planned strategy that is campaign based with well thought through themes and a well-executed content generation engine.
And it’s not going to stand still
The traditional domination of the print and online news sites is being challenged not only by the new channels to market including the likes of YouTube, Twitter, and LinkedIn, but also by companies self-publishing – the process of taking all the new content generated and publishing it through their own ‘news’ channels. And this is only set to grow. The traditional web site that changes once a year will soon become more of an intra-day portal and forum for companies to publish, interact and share with their own private communities and beyond.
The fax machine may be on the scrap heap now, but as we move inexorably towards a world where the shelf life of a story gets ever shorter, we may well pine for that dial-up tone that at least gave us time to think!
By Ashley Carr, MD of Neo PR.
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