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Does Anyone Care about PR Anymore?

Bob Brock

Media relations has radically changed. Sure, it’s as important as it ever was – maybe more so – but it no longer looks or acts the same as it used to. Has your shop kept pace?

Traditional media gatekeepers are no longer the only way – or even the best way – to reach the media. A national survey released in January of this year by Cision (the global PR services and software agency that old timers might better remember as Bacon’s) and George Washington University (the Strategic PR master’s program) found that most reporters and editors now depend on social media sources when identifying and researching news stories:89% said they turn to blogs for story research

  • 65% to social media sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn
  • 52% use micro-blogging services such as Twitter in their news research
  • 61% use Wikipedia

These numbers are driving seismic shifts in the way PR specialists approach their jobs. Years ago, we distributed full-text press releases to carefully selected media lists, first by mail, then fax, then email.

Now, PR units are now experimenting with an assortment of different short-form formats and distribution channels driven by social media. For example, rather than e-mailing press releases to media lists, some PR operatives are sending out news Tweets that link back to custom landing pages or direct journalists and bloggers to YouTube video releases. Story pitches are often linked to blogs on the subject, other online academic sources, and social networking sites with conversations on the topic. This cross-platform activity increases the overall social networking presence and creates searchable content for the news media as well as timely content for your website, blogs, and social networks.

This approach turns away from mass-consumption “push” releases sent to static lists in favor of targeted “pull” content across multiple channels that attracts individuals to stories that they themselves determine are interesting or important. The PR shop spends less time telling the media what to write about, and more time helping reporters and bloggers understand how what your organization is doing fits their individual interests.

A great blog several months ago by Erica Swallow, who managed the social media marketing strategy for The New York Times before joining the Mashable blog, reads the future PR tea leaves and finds a host of changes already in process, with many more to come.

Today’s PR stars are more likely to be social networking ninjas, for example, than masters of the press release and the 20-second telephone pitch. Nicole VanScoten, a PR specialist at Pyxl, explains why:

“It’s amazing to me that I get a MUCH (sic) higher response rate when pitching reporters via Twitter than e-mail. I would actually go as far as to say that every time I’ve pitched a reporter via Twitter, I have gotten some sort of response (often resulting in a story for my client). Via e-mail, I have maybe a 50% response rate. The phone call response rate would be my lowest.”

It’s helpful to look at Nicole’s Twitter account to understand why and how she accomplishes this. She has nearly 4,800 Twitter followers including friends, passing acquaintances, bloggers, PR operatives, marketers, and journalists.

She doesn’t use her Twitter account merely to push out one client PR pitch after another. She engages in conversation, she RTs frequently, she initiates, she responds, she reacts, she participates with honest opinion, and, occasionally, she puts out clear and interesting PR tips with web links to more information. Throughout it all, she is authentic, deliberate, and cognizant of what followers are interested in seeing and hearing.

It’s worth the effort to take a look at your PR staff structure, skill sets, and tactics to get a handle on how well you are positioned for today’s PR.

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