Too much marketing going on


Last week on this blog Dean Rotbart made an impassioned plea for PR people to be more responsive to journalist inquiries.

It was a well-written piece, and I fully agree with his points.  In thinking about how PR has come to a point where the basics of responding to a journalist inquiry are too often lost my attention was drawn to Dean’s passing comment about using a release for SEO improvement.

The line reads “The release may be designed primarily to bolster the SEO results attained by the issuer, although I assume that most companies that pay to distribute news releases are still hoping to get free media coverage from mainstream news outlets.”

This touches on an important struggle in modern PR, negotiating a company’s relations with media and supporting (or driving) company marketing efforts.

On the surface, the two should not be at odds, and in many ways they are not.  An organization comes up with a marketing program and the PR staff develops an approach to media to drive press coverage.  It is the foundation of pretty much every global PR firm.

However, as PR has grown as an industry and seized on new trends, using its core strength as communicators to become a larger part of an organizations marketing efforts, too many have lost sight of the importance of media relationships.  The end result is a larger population of the PR industry with no ability, or interest, in working with the media.

Below are few thoughts on why and how this has come about:

  • Too many journalists and news outlets – It has been said so often and in so many ways that it is now downright trite to say the media landscape has evolved through the digital age.  The most problematic result of this change is that defining a news source can quickly turn into a lengthy philosophical debate.  In this new media environment we begin to see the divide in modern PR.  In some aspects, major news organizations remain the only credible voice and are the core focus of managing a company’s relationship with the media.  However, a marketing mentality shifts that paradigm.  When marketing the company, almost any vehicle will do, and often blogs and other forms of media can more effectively achieve the end goal of brand visibility or consumer engagement.  In fact, nothing has impacted PR more than the opportunity for direct consumer engagement.
  • New ways to measure performance – Not only do we now have new targets and forums to engage, PR is also being measured in all new ways.  PR measurement has been long been elusive and remains a hotly debated topic.  What is changing though is that PR people are becoming smarter about connecting their work to the broader marketing measurement mix.  Furthermore, there has been an explosion of new ways to measure PR results and many are not even dependent on earned media.  As a result, media relationships have become only one aspect of measuring PR.

Put crudely, when an organization puts out a release it may be more focused on driving results with bloggers, producing Facebook traffic or creating a buzz on Twitter.  Therefore, when a radio show producer calls and wants an interview the idea of earned media coverage on radio is completely foreign.

There is a lot of exciting new work being done in PR these days as organizations lean more heavily on PR to have a conversation with their consumers.  The fundamentals of creating and keeping good media relationships have empowered PR to claim this larger role in organizations.  As PR embraces its new role we must be careful not to overlook media relationships as that is what makes PR strong communicators in the first place.