Like many PR firms, Fleishman-Hillard, is rightly pouring investment into social media, search engine marketing, mobile marketing, and digital video. And yet traditional media relations continues to command the attention of most of our clients. They ask: What can you do for us at Time? ABC? The Wall Street Journal? To be fair, our corporate reputation practice concerns Wall Street and Washington more than Main Street and mommies, so our influencers skew older and, therefore, are more likely to comprise the dwindling demographic that holds dear the CBS Evening News.
But the persistent pull of traditional media has other drivers. First, it's intuitively credible. You don't need Technorati metrics to convince a client that a USA Today feature favoring her company is good for business. And even the recent Shirley Sherrod episode reinforces the heft of traditional media. The story of a partisan blog implicating the USDA official as a racist prompted an (over)reaction from the White House — and therefore “went national” — only because of interest by Fox News, CNN and the Washington Post – traditional media. Then the story turned in Sherrod's favor on reporting by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, a 150-year-old newspaper.
Of course, new/digital media increasingly moves stocks, sells products, and passes bills. But it's also axiomatic that traditional media coverage almost always manifests itself online, while only a sliver of organic online content sees print. For breaking news, Twitter and TMZ rock. But stories about issues, trends, and policy remain the realm of familiar mastheads.
In a recent study by the Pew Research Center Project for Excellence in Journalism, 99% of the stories cited in blogs linked to the websites of traditional news outlets. In another recent major story — hackers attacking Google in China — the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard found that of the hundreds of outlets that ran coverage, only 13 did any original reporting, and eight of those were produced by mediums that publish on paper.
Top-tier media relations requires expert storytellers that read a lot, write well, and capture, analyze, and synthesize information quickly. In other words, they possess the skillset corporate clients look for when seeking counsel on a host of strategic communications questions. It follows that the same PR team that produces traditional news media results is intellectually equipped to advise clients on matters of internal communications, public affairs, community relations, issues management, financial communications, and marketing communications – regardless of medium.
Whatever form the news media takes next, that's likely to remain so.
Paul Dusseault leads the corporate practice group in the Atlanta office of Fleishman-Hillard.