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Global PR Perspective – Lessons learned from the media evolution in the USA (part 1)

Will traditional media die out in the land of social networks and direct media? Martin Jones, PR Expert and co-founder of March Communications, reports on the advantages and disadvantages of this development and its influence on PR practices. He also thinks third party media will make a comeback because there is still a need for quality and verified news.

1. What is the latest trend (change) in PR you have identified in your region?

Martin Jones: An ongoing shift in the industry is the seeming demise of third party media and explosive growth of direct media.

Some media and analyst houses are having a hard time making ends meet, with the rise of blogs and online media continuing to undermine the traditional advertising models for media, and the general availability of online information undermining the smaller independent and specialized analysts.  The net effect is more journalists and analysts are taking in-house jobs with companies, in either content creation or business development roles.

Meanwhile, direct media continue to grow unbounded, creating an opportunity to deliver a message directly to potential end users, whether social media, such as Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn, or online-only websites that are considered a reliable source of information by users.

The rise of the smartphone is an integral part of this trend, as more people share information through their social networks, and increasingly look for short, sharp sources of news they can consume on the fly.

All that said, I think that third party media will make a comeback because there is still a need for quality and verified news.  Direct communication channels are great and also have a role to play, but the old age ‘don’t believe everything you read‘ is even more accurate when it comes to tweets and the online rumor mill.

2. How does your agency react / handle / embrace this?

Martin Jones: One example is how this has impacted press releases.  The press release used to be a means of communicating a story to a journalist who then interpreted the information and wrote a story. Now, it is a more direct form of communication.

The press release is still useful as a way to scope and fathom a story and get required approvals from partners and customers, but as an outreach mechanism, it has little value.

The writing style for press releases has also changed. A release goes on the client’s website, is sent out over wires, and is consumed directly by your audiences – so it shouldn’t be written in the stiff and formal style of a traditional press release anymore.  It should be written as the story itself, linking to supporting and useful information.

The other huge change is that it is no longer realistic to think that you can simply pull a media list from a media database and send your story out.  We now spend a significant amount of time researching influencer maps and tracking stories and issues, because when you pitch a journalist much more of the work justifying the relevance of the story needs to be done up front.  This affects how client’s campaigns get started because now time must be taken into consideration when planning how to really get under the skin of those who matter and have influence.  This goes back to the direct communication point above – just because a website or blog pumps out a lot of seemingly relevant content doesn’t guarantee it’s a worth targeting.

We have developed more of an analytical approach to how we identify and track key influencers for clients, and are developing an increasing range of reports that we deliver to clients, taking advantage of the wealth of free information to keep them better informed of industry trends, opportunities and competitive threats.

3.   Can you give a recent example from a project?

Martin Jones: An example of a project where we analyzed who we wanted to influence and used social media and web 2.0 tools was a campaign we undertook for Tideway Systems (now BMC).  The former CEO, Richard Muirhead was attending the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, and we wanted to make the most of his attendance.

We used Twitter to listen to what people were saying and tracked issues and related trends to identify those we wanted to influence.  By tracking hashtags and tweets, and following the issues and angles surrounding the event, we were able to align Tideway appropriately.

We monitored Twitter for WEF news, reactions to panel discussions and social events in the evening, and we responded on behalf of Muirhead, tweeting whenever possible.  Through this we secured briefings with the BBC, Fast Company, Forbes and TIME and were featured in Forbes, Fortune, GigaOM, Network World and Wall Street and Technology.

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Next week Martin reports on common mistakes companies make while doing PR in the USA.

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Martin Jones, managing partner and co-founder of March Communications, has nearly 20 years of experience driving and executing global B2B and B2C public relations campaigns. He co-founded March to provide both clients and agency teams with a service and environment that is open, innovative and inspiring.  March’s approach to social media is driven by his firm belief that all media is social and a good campaign isn’t about separating traditional media from social media, it’s about integrating them.  Martin launched one of the first dedicated online PR agencies, iJack Communications, back in early 1999 and is extremely well versed in the transformational effect online has had on communications.

Martin began his career at London-based public relations agency, Band & Brown, where he led PR and marketing campaigns for BT, Cisco Systems, Encyclopedia Britannica, Disney, HSBC, LogicaCMG, McAfee, Sky Digital, Sony Ericsson and Vodafone.

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