I recently attended the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Tri-State District’s annual Meet the Editors roundtable and had the opportunity to enjoy the media panel’s spirited conversation and debate.
The media panel participants ranged from daily to monthly media outlets, print and digital to broadcast delivery methods, business to consumer beats, corporate to franchise-owned and everything imaginable in between. At the close of the panel I was struck by the old adage “the more things change, the more they stay the same” because although our media landscape has evolved significantly in the last 10 years, the core principles of what we do as communicators remain the same even after decades of change.
As an industry, it’s easy for us to get wrapped up in our own debates over who owns what, the future of public relations and earned-owned-paid models. This panel was a good reminder that above all, it’s still about adding value and building relationships. Here were a few highlights from the media panel’s discussion:
Meet us where we live. (Hint: It’s digital.)
Most of the reporters on the panel wholeheartedly agreed that the best thing public relations professionals can do is begin to serve up more digital content because that’s where they live on a daily basis. This means companies should be featuring their subject matter experts (SMEs) in videos and podcasts more often. While the print piece isn’t dead, even the most seasoned professionals agreed it is incumbent on public relations professionals to guide clients toward more modern formats.
Build the relationship first. Pitch me later.
Sure, there are times when we succeed with a cold call or e-mail pitch, but generally, relationships still matter. One of the panelists explained, “The best pitch is never as good as the relationship you’ve built with me beforehand.” This can mean managing expectations with clients and colleagues in terms of how fast we can make things happen.
We pay attention to comment sections, and so should you.
While the panelists admitted that a fair amount of trolls exist in comment sections, they still scan for new angles. A comment isn’t likely to prompt a brand new story or a correction to an existing story, but it could point a reporter down a path to a new angle he or she hadn’t previously considered. For public relations professionals, this means we can’t always assume these comments are from outliers or people on the fringe. Sometimes these points-of-view matter and it’s our obligation to have a healthy dialog with clients about them.
Speed and accuracy: We need both.
One of the panelists expressed the challenge of walking the line between first and right, and being first to break news while taking time to fact check. Some of the media representatives noted the two source rule, meaning after they make the judgment call to follow a story they validate it with two sources. For corporate communicators this makes the extended network of stakeholders even more important for shaping a story and managing a reputation.
Whether we are in-house people serving corporate colleagues or external agencies serving clients, media relations is still central to what we do, and it continues to be increasingly challenging to deliver a valuable story. The most successful communicators will be those who are nimble, agile and consistent in their approach.
Meghan Gross is a Vice President at Pierpont Communications with more than 25 years of experience in corporate communications, reputation management, employee engagement and crisis communication. Based in the Eastern Corridor, Gross has worked with large companies in Boston, legal and other professional services firms in New York, associations in Washington, DC and more.