PR is a different beast now. Period. Part One

Anyone working in marketing, PR, or advertising knows that things have changed dramatically in the media during the last several years.

Anyone working in marketing, PR, or advertising knows that things have changed dramatically in the media during the last several years. Heck, anyone reading the paper, listening to the radio, watching TV, checking Twitter, or reading a blog knows that the media has transformed exponentially (although they may not use the word “exponential).” And, as a result, our jobs in PR have become totally unrecognizable from what they looked like last year, let alone ten years ago.

What we know: digital media has caused a major shift within the industry, resulting in fragmentation and a driving trend of breaking news over features. But, with all the rhetoric aside, how has this transformation really changed how both media and PR people conduct valuable relationships and, ultimately, their daily jobs?

We'll explore three themes: time, creativity, and technology.

Let's start with time.

Use your their time wisely
Long gone are the days when journalists set aside time for lunches or drinks with PR people to “check in” and catch up on various clients. And, in recent years, desk side briefings and “relationship building” meetings between journalists and senior company executives have also fallen by the wayside. Why? With the pace of today's news, and the amount of stories reporters have on their plates at any given time, journalists don't have time to be out of the office for two hours if it doesn't have immediate impact on a story.

So what does this mean for us PR people? And how do we build relationships in the absence of the three-Arnold Palmer lunch? Give up and go with the flow? No way. Since relationships between the media and news sources are really a cornerstone of our industry, here are a few ways to maintain ties in a digital world:

Begin building a relationship by showing a reporter that you are genuinely interested in and understand his or her beat. Send emails with ideas based on their exact coverage, rather than general email blasts. On that note, kill general email blasts all together.

Reserve in-person meetings for high-level executives and news; reporters are more likely to take a meeting if there is news attached (but it's still not a slam dunk).

Show up at events where you know journalists will be like conferences, book signings, parties, evening roundtables, and panels. It's much more proactive to introduce yourself on their turf, rather than expect them to set aside time in their day to get to know you. One colleague recently took the time to go to Jefferson Graham's book signing and re-acquaint herself with the longtime USA Today journalist. She quickly followed-up, blogged about the meeting, and then stayed in touch. Her course of action is a great model to use for any PR professional looking to create or rekindle an important media relationship.

Also note that since journalists have less time for in person and phone briefings, this means that they are writing more of their stories from press releases and e-mail interviews. It's more critical than ever to create detailed but to-the-point written press materials that give reporters facts, rather than flowery PR language that won't mean much to the journalist, and certainly not to the reader.

The cliché, “timing is everything,” doesn't just apply to Hollywood. Taking the time to do your due diligence in researching an individual reporter's work, reserving in person meetings for high-level news, being proactive in engaging at their convenience, and producing quality materials (that actually say something, skip the jargon) will make all the difference in success and, well…you know, the opposite of success.

Stay tuned for the second installment, “PR is a different beast now. Period. – Part Two: Creativity.”

Darcy Cobb is co-founder of Dotted Line Communications.

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