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Media Guide to Nowhere

Bob Brock

Are you still compiling a Media Guide? If so, you might want to ask yourself why.

Media Guides, sometimes called Experts Guides, as any PR person who’s been around the block a time or two can tell you, are compilations of faculty experts who can speak to reporters on certain topics. These days, they’re typically online, but some institutions still insist on printing a few copies, as well.

At one time, they fulfilled a useful purpose, giving reporters a concise directory of campus experts to choose from for their stories. But three recent events have proven that it’s past time to let this anachronism go.

  1. A conference organizer from Malaysia called recently to ask if I would be able present at a strategic planning conference for higher education executives in Kuala Lumpur this fall. “How did you find me?” I asked. “I Googled it,” she said succinctly.
  2. An Associated Press (AP) reporter called last week to get my response to a recent controversial ad campaign. “How did you come across my name?” I asked. “Your blog popped up in Google,” he said.
  3. A recently released study from the University of Illinois, Soundbite University, confirms what many of us have observed for years: that over the past several decades, faculty members have increasingly been seen by the news media as news commentators rather than news makers. Reporters are most often looking for a soundbite on a breaking news story.

Put these three events together and a new methodology for PR begins to emerge. Here are the basic elements:

  1. Media Guides are an anachronism supplanted by Internet searches
  2. Media releases are often unnecessary and ineffective, and creation/dissemination of the actual news or feature content itself is more productive

Many communications offices have been moving this direction for years, now. If your institution isn’t one of them, it’s worthwhile taking a hard look at how you’re doing business.

For example, instead of posting media releases on high-profile faculty kudos or research, the communications office generates its own news or feature article or multimedia product and disseminates it through its own media platforms, blog spaces, Twitter feeds, etc. Major stories are linked to other blogs, academic papers and references, website landing pages, YouTube, and other social networking sites to increase the overall web “buzz”. The bonus, of course, is that you create timely content for your own audiences while creating important searchable content for the news media.

These days, few reporters use Media Guides. Instead, they’re more likely to Google a few keywords on the topic and contact those who pop up as relevant and interesting.

So the goal today is to improve your institution/faculty member rankings in Internet searches by increasing overall Internet exposure through multiple links and references, and a high search engine quotient.

Forget the Media Guides and the press releases.

7 Replies to “Media Guide to Nowhere”

  1. Thanks for summing this up, Travis. Your penultimate paragraph states the goal nicely. We don’t have a “news releases” section on our news page, and for the most part we simply post stories, not traditionally formatted releases. And when we do use that sort of format and include contact information — well, I can’t remember the last time someone contacted me on that basis. Still, I persist, on occasion.

  2. Travis, I think your assessment is right on target, although I still see the need for timely media advisories to alert the press to certain events of interest, and I see some utility in sending out email notices presenting faculty experts who are available to comment on a specific breaking news story. I’d be interested in knowing what you think about this.

  3. Thanks Eric and David for the credit on this. While I do write blogs on here. For this particular blog, I am just the grunt that posted this particular blog on LinkedIn for Bob. He’s the one that wrote the blog. 🙂

  4. Hey David,
    I was thinking about the standard press release when I wrote that the blog above, but you’ve put your finger on two media activities that I think would benefit from separate notices being sent to media lists. Like your idea of timely lists of faculty expert commentators on news issues.

    Another area several folks have asked about is high-profile public events…how do you handle that? Do you send out event calendar listings? That area is always a little touchy on campus…


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