Bylines, not pulp, are what count

A trend that many PR professionals might be coming across lately is the reaction from colleagues or clients to journalists offering up online-only opportunities in places where, previously, online might have been complementary or secondary as far as priorities went.

A trend that many PR professionals might be coming across lately is the reaction from colleagues or clients to journalists offering up online-only opportunities in places where, previously, online might have been complementary or secondary as far as priorities went. While not surprising, it might be frustrating if one isn't familiar with the online reach of a particular outlet's Web presence, or if no solid communication has been done with the client or internal team as to the value of the journalist's hard work – no matter where the words are printed.

Now, this isn't a "when life gives you lemons..." situation at all. It's the reality of 2009 and beyond. Just because column inches are shrinking on pulp-printed pages doesn't mean column inches are declining everywhere. At the end of the day, what's vital is that the journalist thinks enough of your story to dedicate time to it – sometimes the "print" portion of the story is that the timing works out for it to make the day's cutoff, and not that there isn't the time of day to work with you on the story. It's this attitude and attention to detail that many so-called "mainstream" outlets (read: not strictly online publications, originally) are able to utilize to "compete" with the blogosphere and other online publishing spaces, but also to expose additional talent inside the organization or take long-form reporters or columnists and improve or develop their short-form writing abilities.

PR firms and in-house teams should be in transition from having "exclusive" digital-only teams handle all PR in that area to a place where more/most of their employees understand and are able to work with online-specific journalists, bloggers, and the like. Similarly, we need to become better at communicating up the value of having a story from a key journalist at The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Restaurant News, or Variety, whether said story is online or offline.

Of all professions, those of us in PR are notorious for having a Google Alert, RSS feed, or something else set up for anything and everything we're working on. Which, by the way, goes to an online article, even if it does make the print edition the next day – so the concept shouldn't be foreign.

Is it a valuable and great experience for a young PR pro to get a story in one of those newspapers or trade publications in print? Absolutely – who doesn't like framing their first "hit?" But we're quickly entering a time when that same young PR pro might have that first "hit" be a food review by Hungry Girl (hungry-girl.com) or an exclusive on Engadget.

And we should print them out and frame them the same way we always have.

Tom Biro is senior director of communications at MTV. His column will focus on how digital media affects and shifts PR. He can be reached at tom.biro@mtvstaff.com.

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