It's harder than ever before to grab media attention for PR-driven news. Even if you do earn coverage, you can expect to see diminished impact from that press hit. More PR people are chasing fewer journalists. Unless your company or product already has star power, it's increasingly difficult to be heard above the roar.
These changes have been been coming for a while now, and PR professionals have tried to evolve. Many of us invested in social media -- only to hit a pay wall as platforms changed their algorithms. Ironically, organic reach now comes at a price. So we sought an alternate route to market and jumped on the content-marketing bandwagon. There, too, we face tolls as publishers look to generate revenue from the virtual real estate they're giving over to native advertising
Distribution itself has been one of the biggest challenges. PR teams long have depended on newswires, but they're not as effective in the modern marketplace. Who cares if your press release appeared on Yahoo Finance or some other portal? Do you know which media outlets even see this? Most of them are glued to Twitter.
The marketing world has made content a commodity in the race to dominate social networks. The way we've always worked PR now seems outgunned and out of options. But we still can adapt. We just need to apply in new ways the same ideas that have defined our profession all along. This means taking a fresh run at the basics, including finding audience and telling a story.
Forward-thinking teams are learning they can break through and achieve their goals once they understand how people find, share and consume information. This knowledge enables them to adjust their budgets and tactics to align with prospective clients' preferred information channels. Here are five ways you can master PR's new rules.
1. Go forth and publish on social networks.
In the early years of blogging, our firm advised clients they could use that same soapbox to communicate. Today, social networks are overtaking the open web. They reach vast audiences with precise targeting. Those networks quickly are becoming the go-to places for news, too. If you want attention for your brand, you'll miss out if you're not on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
Sure, many PR professionals already are all over social media. But getting your news seen by the right audiences -- especially if your brand's page doesn't already have umpteen million followers -- is another matter.
You need both paid and organic promotion to succeed, plus an understanding of the algorithms at work. Those wonky programs determine what appears in our newsfeeds. Their calculations are mysterious and constantly changing, but networks do offer updates and guidance. You'll also find an army of reporters and bloggers who jump on each development with advice.
It's also important to understand the mechanics of targeting. For less than it costs to send a release over a major wire service, you can announce news on your brand page and promote it as a sponsored post that hits the newsfeeds of journalists and your customer audience.
2. Package information as consumable, sharable content.
Did media ignore your soft-news story? Repackage it as content that your customers can enjoy and share on social networks.
Facebook's newsfeed favors individual updates versus those on brand pages. Information that's useful, interesting or entertaining to friends, family and colleagues is the order of the day. Craft a topic that resonates, work a little organic and paid promotion magic, and you'll be well on your way to achieving your campaign goals.
It's also important to reach people where they consume information. Increasingly, that's on mobile devices. Facebook Instant Articles and Google AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) speed article load times and improve the user experience. While these tools are designed for publishers, Facebook's solution can be used by brands as well. So can Apple News and other apps.
3. Tap the power of influencer marketing.
Networks can help with distribution, but they don't buy the validation that comes with earned media coverage. The power of influencer marketing can help you gain all-important social proof while you find another route to market.
Influencer marketing can work alongside other forms of paid and organic promotion and distribution. First, identify who is not only important in your space but also big on the network you're targeting. Then court these power users and encourage them to share your information with their followers. You can offer a variety of incentives for them to participate. Some accept payment or free products -- though you'll need to be careful about FTC rules that require disclosure. Others are happy to share positive reviews and mentions, gratis.
4. Pay for that article.
PR used to draw the line at paid opportunities, but some are worth the price. It seems more agencies and client-side teams are considering the merits of paying for article placement. Before you decide if this is the right tactic for you, examine variables such as reach, audience and the value of the publication's own brand.
5. Don't forget traditional media.
Bring traditional media into your strategy by engaging them when it makes sense. To get the greatest leverage, make sure you understand different media outlets' news appetites. When you have hard news, hit them hard. It's icing on the cake to get covered by media outlets that also publish on social networks or are picked up by news apps. Some journalists are multi-platform influencers in their own right, with strong personal brands and a vocal presence across a range of networks.