Thriving on Media Chaos

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By Jason Ledder, Vice President of Media Relations, R&J Public Relations

I’d like to speak and write about the changing-at-breakneck-speed media universe, and how difficult it is for any single PR professional or group to wrap their arms around all of it – much less know what all of it means.  Our agency is no exception, despite our very smart and media-savvy staff.   But I have a theory on how we can all exploit the current chaos, yet remain effective information providers.

The term “24-hour news cycle” has become so commonplace that it borders on the cliché.  But some facts are clear:

  • The social media universe operates without the benefit/hindrance of an editor
  • It has become progressively more difficult for traditional media to compete with the speed of the blogosphere
  • Specialty beat reporters (i.e. Technology, healthcare, etc.) are stretched beyond capacity on increasingly thin news crews
  • The speed of innovation has made it virtually impossible for any one journalist to keep abreast of all of the new technologies, services, etc.

For the past few years, PR professionals have had to walk a fine line between getting the “big hit” in traditional media, providing timely information to their key blogger community, and making sure that no one breaks an embargo.  This effort has caused countless sleepless nights, untold headaches and excruciating stress for both the client and the practitioner.   But how can you cater to both the traditional media and the blogosphere when they are both competing to break the story and get the news out first?  I’ve found insight in Andrew Carnegie’s famous quote: “Hidden within every disadvantage is an equally powerful opportunity.”

In many instances, I’ve found that we can take care of just about everyone by giving each media something special and equally important to its audience.  By creating these “win-win” situations, I believe that a talented PR practitioner can achieve the delicate balance between traditional and social media while serving the needs of their client (and pleasing their client’s bosses).

Let’s look at how this could potentially play out for a consumer products company:

Let’s say your client is launching the next best gadget and they are looking for a key executive interview to gain lots of ‘buzz’ throughout the tech space.  Offer your CEO exclusively up to their most desired traditional media outlet – in this scenario let’s say it’s the New York Times — to discuss the launch and what it means to the industry from the 30,000-foot level.  The CEO can talk about how this gadget fits into the marketplace, why it is the right time to launch, provide insights into marketing strategy, and discuss other “higher level” topics.  On the flip side, and at the same time, offer several review units to the top bloggers (in a variety of verticals) across the country in controlled locations – perhaps one location in each of your top DMAs.  Controlled locations could be meeting rooms, private restaurant rooms or anywhere that you are in control and have a captive audience.  These locations should be manned by engineers, sales people or anyone with an intimate knowledge of the product, who can do professional demos and answer technical questions.  The original New York Times reporter should be aware of this, which will allow him or her to then aggregate the content/reviews/first impressions from the bloggers as part of their piece, thereby increasing their own pass along rate and actually helping them to tell the story they want to tell.  Under this scenario, the New York Times reporter doesn’t have to be totally “geeked up” on all the high tech info, but he or she still has the ability to push the tech news out from a variety of knowledgeable sources.  On the flip side, the bloggers get to tell the product and technical story they want to tell – and with the immediacy that they demand – against the backdrop of the CEO’s statements.  Both media can cross-pollinate their information and not step on each other’s toes.

The lesson here is that we as PR people need to recognize the changing media landscape and be sensitive to the special and individual needs of each outlet.  In so doing, we can help both traditional and social media to do a better job of telling our clients’ news.  More importantly, this mindset will allow us to deliver better service to our clients.

What do you think?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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