Public relations has not been immune to the massive changes impacting media outlets over the last year. PR tactics continue to be influenced by these changes, and we as PR professionals must adapt our methods and approaches to keep up -- otherwise we could face irrelevance.
Think of the issues roiling journalism that have impacted the public relations industry. Fake news...new technologies..new networks...the rise of social media as a chief news source.
How do you cope with these changes? And more importantly, how can you make yourself relevant to the needs of journalists today?
Several recent reports and studies cast new light on the impact of the changes and what journalists need from PR professionals. For example, Cision's 2018 Global State of the Media Report showed that while journalists have been under attack many in the public have their back.
Let’s look at the 9 biggest trends that affect the PR industry as a whole, and how you can adapt your PR strategies to the new rules.
9 Effective PR Tactics You Need to Know & How to Adapt
1. Journalists Are Feeling the Pressure
The media industry is currently in a state of flux, and many long-time journalists are feeling the pressure. As the pace of the industry increases, resources continue to diminish. The journalists who are left are expected to do more in less time and with fewer resources. Sound stressful? It is.
How to Adapt
It's important for PR professionals to understand the pressures that journalists are under. When you make your pitch, get right to the point with well-researched facts, and provide real value to the journalist.
Because of the added pressure, many journalists now turn to online services like Help a Reporter Out (HARO), PR Newswire for Journalists (PRNJ), and ProfNet to gather story ideas. Register for these services to position yourself as a ready resource.
2. Journalists Face a New Emphasis on Accuracy
The journalism industry is under a microscope when it comes to accuracy -- and reporters feel the extra scrutiny acutely. 60% of journalists believe that the public is interested in facts more than feelings or opinions.
Therefore, it comes as no surprise that 92% of journalists polled remarked that being right is more important to them than being first with an exciting story.
How to Adapt
This requires you to do your research thoroughly before you make a pitch. Give journalists useful, reliable facts that they can work with and trust.
3. Good Storytelling Matters
As never before, storytelling has become a vital way to connect with journalists as well as audiences. In fact, experts in a recent report predict that this tactic is poised to make the biggest difference in PR strategies over the next 12 months.
How to Adapt
How can you become an outstanding storyteller in your PR? First, stop just relaying facts. If you want to reach a person, you must tell the story like a person. Think about the real, flesh-and-blood people involved in your story and what they did to make it happen.
Let's take an example of how you would do this in a press release. Let's say you're announcing an expansion of your brand to a new location. Think of how this affects the people involved. How did your CEO grow the company to its present state? How is this expansion going to affect the local community? Job opportunities? Charitable contributions?
These details are what takes your content from mere writing to storytelling.
4. Word of Mouth is Important
According to a study on brand trust from Golin's Global Relevancy Review, brand relevance trumps trustworthiness. People are looking more for word of mouth recommendations and third party reviews to make purchase decisions rather than simiply a perceived level of trustworthiness.
How to Adapt
While trustworthiness should always be a priority, brands should also look at how they can use third parties to increase their brand awareness.
Influencer marketing floats to the top of the list when talking about third party recommendations. Influencer marketing takes the reputation and trustworthiness of an individual with a large following on social media, and uses his or her voice and sway to impact the purchase decision of followers.
Another effective way to gain third party recommendations is to utilize B2B case studies and customer testimonials. When customers express gratitude for a particular way your product or service has helped their business, it may be the green light you need. Ask them if they would mind participating in a case study or giving a testimonial that highlights their experience.
5. The Relationship Between PR Professionals and Influencers Evolves
As discussed in the previous point, influencer marketing is an increasingly valuable resource in public relations strategy. In a study by Cision, 18% of influencers polled said they rely more on PR professionals than in the past. What accounts for this change?
For one thing, influencers, whose field is still new and experiencing rapid changes, seek guidance as they navigate this new territory. As their industry matures, new rules and regulations surface and impact the way they work.
For instance, the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) has recently begun to crack down on influencers, and now requires them to disclose their sponsorships to readers. Any who do not comply with this requirement will face a fine.
How to Adapt
As a PR or communications professional, you can expect to serve as a mediator between brands and influencers. In this capacity, you will be responsible for ensuring that influencers are compensated for their work, and that everyone adheres to the law.
6. Email Continues as the #1 Way to Reach Journalists
Email is far and away journalists’ preferred contact method -- with 92% saying it's their favorite avenue.
Even with the increasing use of social media by journalists, a mere 2% preferred receiving a pitch on a social network (either publicly or privately). And an increasing number said that reaching out with a phone call is an absolute no-no. Do your best to avoid doing so whenever possible.
How to Adapt
Always reach out to journalists through their own email address -- don't reach out through an editor if possible.
Try to find a journalist’s email through a Google search, on the media outlet’s website, or through free online tools like Rapportive and ZoomInfo (which has a free and paid service). Paid services like Cision's Media Database also offer large databases that you can tap into for this information.
And just because it's an email does not mean it's going to succeed. Put time and effort into laying out a well-crafted email pitch strategy. Some pitch best practices include:
- Research the journalist's audience and past articles he or she has published.
- Pitch stories that are relevant to the journalist's beat.
- Leverage data, such as a recent survey, to spike interest.
Such tactics will help you not only get into a journalist's inbox, but truly connect with them.
7. PR Measurement Matters
Businesses are more interested than ever in seeing ROI for their investment -- and PR is no exception. They want to see the value that they get from investing in PR campaigns, reputation management, and other PR services.
How to Adapt
Be prepared to prove ROI on any and all of your PR strategies. From PR campaigns to press release strategy, measure all of your results.
And much of public relations measurement goes beyond simple numbers. While social likes and website traffic numbers are important, be prepared to go deeper into public relations metrics that show more of the quality that PR brings to the table.
For instance, say you want to measure the impact of a media mention. With a simple bitly link on your article, you may be able to see how much traffic comes from people reading about you in that outlet. Monitor social mentions about you during and after your initial release -- not just the number of comments, but the overall tone as well.
8. The Role of CEOs Changes
Brand image is crucial to positive public relations -- and a CEO's image is no different. Often CEOs have been seen as the powerful, take no prisoners men and women behind the scenes -- quietly directing their brands. Modern public relations tactics, however, demand a change.
In a survey conducted by The Harris Poll, almost 50% of Americans viewed the reputation of company CEOs as "bad." This reputation poses a real threat to a brand's image as a whole.
How to Adapt
The same Harris Poll identified 5 traits that people look for in a CEO -- trusted, ethical, accountable, competent, and respectful. CEOs need to personify these qualities and gain the confidence of those listening to them.
Current trends demand that CEOs be out in front of their audience, not hidden away behind a desk. Social media is a great avenue to make this change. But it is not enough to simply have a social media presence. CEOs need to engage more with their audience on social networks and be an audible voice for their industry.
9. Journalists Focus on Stories That Fit Their Interests
Journalists can go through a hundred story pitches in a day. After skimming through that many emails, you can be sure that journalists are more than likely to hit the delete key.
When asked what motivates them to pursue one story over another, 51% of journalists said that they choose stories based on the knowledge displayed of their past work, interests, and strengths.
How to Adapt
Stop spamming journalists with stories that don’t fit their beat. It is more important than ever to do your research, and contact only journalists within your industry. To find the right fit, you can use an online tool like MuckRack, which is known for its vast database of journalists and bloggers.
Show journalists that you chose them specifically because your story fits their interests. Tailor your pitch to the specific journalist you want to use -- never send batch emails!
Only 24% of journalists expressed a desire to see thorough details about a product, event, or topic. This is down 20% from the same question that was asked last year. Clearly, journalists don’t just want to read about your company news -- focus instead on how your story fits into their interests.
To continue to be effective, your PR tactics must evolve with new changes and challenges. These trends will continue to reshape the PR profession as it strives to keep up with a changing world.
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