There was a time not very long ago where a couple of well-placed news articles in prominent national or regional media news outlets – newspapers, magazines, TV news shows – would reach a high percentage of the population.
We all know what’s been happening. Newspaper circulation is down dramatically. (Circulation per capita declined from 35 percent in the mid-1940s to under 15 percent today.) Magazine readership has tanked (single-copy sales of Time magazine are down nearly 50% since 2008. Ouch.) Network news viewership has been surprisingly steady in the last couple of years – leveling off from a 50 percent drop since 1980 – but there’s a lot of competition and noise from cable.
Meanwhile, shrinking news holes and smaller editorial staffs present dwindling opportunities to get clients’ stories in front of readers and viewers.
Sure, online readership continues to rise. But the online environment does not have the same permanence or readership loyalty as traditional media did. Readers of the print version of The New York Times couldn’t miss a front-page story. Online, many readers don’t even see the home page: they go directly to articles and sections via e-mail links and social media posts. Many stories get lost in the non-linear digital realm.
But where there is change, there is opportunity.
While many PR programs still use traditional media relations as an important backbone, good PR practitioners are looking at alternative outlets to share clients’ stories – often in ways that are more compelling and without the filter of gatekeeping journalists.
Articles in third-party publications. Organizations ranging from regional trade and professional organizations to large national not-for-profits are publishing their own magazines (print and online) and newsletters (print and e-mail.) Most of them are understaffed and hungry for news that will help their readers. Contributed articles in these publications can be effective in reaching highly targeted audiences and delivery another important benefit: the implied endorsement of the organization.
Contributed blog posts. Similarly, many organizations have blogs. Most struggle to keep them current, so they readily accept quality content that can keep readers returning and help with search optimization. Many will happily offer a link back to the contributor’s website, which is helpful in assessing generated traffic and ROI.
Self publishing. Develop and produce your own media outlet and distribute your news to the people you want to reach, virtually eliminating waste. There are dozens of opportunities: print magazines and newsletters, online magazines, e-mail newsletters, blogs, social media and more. It requires more work and commitment than using someone else’s platform, but you have complete control over the content, timing and audience. And don’t forget video. While it’s usually more expensive and difficult to produce, it can convey emotion and deliver powerful visuals in a way static media cannot.
Real-time reporting. For big news stories, you can act as your own multimedia news bureau. It’s like self-publishing on steroids. Include video, images, graphics, news stories, live Q/As and more. Promote it through social media channels and directly to your audiences via e-mail and other means. The exclusive nature of the event will make your customers and followers feel privileged to receive the news immediately as it occurs.
Ironically, some of the tools mentioned above can improve a PR pro’s success of scoring hits with the traditional media. A good blog post can be pitched as a contributed article or op-ed in a print publication. A quality video can help convince a harried assignment editor that a CEO has the chops to appear on live TV. Quality news is still quality news. Thankfully, there are more places than ever to get it published.