There's a horrible rumor going around that print and other traditional media outlets are no longer valid, that it's passé or worse, simply irrelevant. While we should all be dedicated to embracing the new, the overstated concept that print has up and died is greatly exaggerated. Certainly, one shouldn't—or at least in our profession—cannot underestimate the importance of new media, but that doesn't mean we entirely dismiss traditional media outlets. Why? Simple. It's not always about how many you reach, but rather whom you reach. Everyone loves to claim “quality over quantity,” yet how many actually practice this philosophy? PR professionals constantly tout the amounts of hits, impressions, etc., that they will deliver to their clients. And sometimes all this amounts to is a number, and nothing more. Often, potential value is overlooked in favor of a higher tally.
Recent studies have shown that to some, print is still not only their primary resource for information, but also what they consider the only valid news source that has earned their trust. It's easy to say that these are the opinions of old fuddy-duddies that need to get with the times, i.e., people not in the know and therefore unimportant. This couldn't be further from the truth. These are business and political leaders, key decision makers who have the power to affect public opinion and put things in motion. To ignore this group would be remiss and irresponsible. With each piece of news you need to carefully examine who you're aiming to reach and determine the most effective means of getting in front of them. Simply saying that one outlet has a higher circulation than another, or that one has more viral potential, may be important, but it also might not be critical to the final decision.
A fully informed PR professional should be able to ascertain what outlets are going to have the greatest impact for both the immediate and the long-term. It's key to work with and consult the client to understand how to better build their business and brand awareness through the right press. As with most things, it's a matter of balance: Embrace the new without discarding the old. Take the time to understand each audience, their outlets of choice, and the platforms they live on. Learn how to reach, relate, and communicate with each.
Ed James is founder and president of the PR division of New York-based Cornerstone.