This is What PR Then, and Now, Looks Like

media relations, PR, Beloit College Mindset listI’ve been involved in both PR/media relations and business journalism for a number of years. So many years, in fact, that I can recall the days when I had to write copy on a typewriter without an auto-correct function. I honestly can’t even fathom how I managed to do that. Think about the work (and re-work) involved in making even simple edits to a document. You’d literally have to pull out one sheet and start from scratch. Even more mind-boggling (even for me) is that I wrote quite lengthy articles that way.

Back then, when attempting to connect with the media to get coverage for a company event or announcement, there were two ways to do it: send them a snail mail press (news) release or call them. But first, you’d need to find their contact information. Not so easy in pre-internet days. In those pre-internet days, companies and individuals seeking exposure for themselves through the media were hampered by the gatekeepers who they had to influence for their messages to reach a broad audience. Media outlets had access to those audiences; most businesses did not. Today, it’s readily apparent that we all have the potential to bypass those gatekeepers to get our message out to the masses.

That can be a good thing.

It can also create some issues. Two that come to mind for me are noise and an increasing inability to discern fact from fake. I was invited to speak to a class of PR students recently and in thinking about what I was going to talk about it dawned on me that the “changes” that I have seen over the years are really quite irrelevant to students who have grown up in a digital age. It’s never really going to matter to them that:

  • Pitches are now done primarily through email instead of over the phone
  • Mailing out hard copy news releases or media kits is almost entirely a thing of the past
  • In addition to traditional media, they now need to connect with other audiences that can help spread their message: bloggers and influencers, for instance
  • They don’t have to scan through hard copy newspapers and other publications to find “clips” of items that have been published about their companies (they can just “Google” it)
  • Sharing their news coverage doesn’t require making photocopies and sending via snail mail to others – they can simply link to the online material
  • Getting coverage in major print news outlets no longer holds the same appeal as getting coverage through online sites with large audiences; digital content is more important than traditional from a PR standpoint

It’s somewhat like the Beloit College Mindset List published each year to give instructors some perspective on where incoming students are coming from. And, just like that list, when it comes to practicing PR a lot of the changes are extremely beneficial for how we do our work. We can reach more people, more quickly, than ever before. We have greater control and ability to get our unvarnished, unedited messages to the masses. But, there are some downfalls that come along with this:

  • When a potentially negative event or issue emerges we don’t have time to convene with a group of company leaders to create, perfect and gain widespread approval for our messages; we need to respond quickly before the digital narrative gets away from us
  • That need to respond quickly creates a greater potential for error and inaccuracy (from both organizations and the media); once inaccurate messages get out there it’s very difficult to walk them back
  • Having good writing skills is no longer enough for today’s PR pros (although it continues to be very important); they must now be adept with graphic, audio, video and digital content as well – and, increasingly, they need to understand analytics
  • It’s easy to be duped by supposed “experts”–even for media outlets
  • The explosion and segmentation of media outlets make it increasingly challenging to stay on top of new opportunities, staff changes, etc.

There are many other impacts – positive and negative – that are affecting the practice of PR. There also are some evergreen practices and processes that impact how we do our work. I’m covering both in an ebook that we’ll soon be publishing on “21st Century Secrets to Effective PR.”

While many old pros in the PR world will say “it’s a new world out there,” my recent experience speaking to a class of college students really highlighted for me that it’s not new for them. It’s the only world they’ve known.

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Strategic Communications, LLC, works with B2B clients to help them achieve their goals through effective content marketing and management with both internal and external audiences. We are adept at evaluating and analyzing communication efforts and working with clients to plan, create and publish high-quality, unique content, through both on- and offline media to achieve desired results. Our background in business journalism, marketing and online communications makes us well-positioned to serve the needs of 21st century marketers.

We serve clients who are looking for help creating content for a wide array of channels—from social media posts to full-length manuscripts, and everything in between. We focus primarily on service-related B2B topics and work with a number of independent consultants interested in building their thought leadership through online channels. For ongoing content management, our first step is to fully understand your goals, objectives and competitive landscape.

Then we’ll conduct a thorough analysis and assessment of your digital presence, compared to competitors, and recommend a communication strategy to achieve your goals. But, we also regularly take on individual projects – white papers, blog posts, contributed articles, etc. If you’re interested in learning more, let us know!

(Strategic Communications is certified as a Woman-Owned Business Enterprise through the Wisconsin Department of Administration.)

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