Working in PR ain’t what it used to be.
As the media world has been turned upside down, the job of those who are responsible for securing coverage for their clients has become infinitely more challenging.
But the rise of social media has also created a slew of new opportunities for publicity pros that are willing to shift their thinking and embrace the way media actually works these days.
Here are a few suggestions of how you can better serve your clients in our current media landscape.
1. Measure Metrics That Matter
All metrics are not created equal. Too often, it seems publicists are focused on the wrong ones.
Press clips and mentions may have value, but in most cases their value pales in comparison to other available metrics.
What’s relevant isn’t just that a publication writes about your client, but rather the impact of that coverage.
How much was the article shared? How much traffic did it generated? How many views did the video receive? How many conversions did it drive?
One press hit that drives significant action is infinitely more valuable than numerous press hits that don’t.
2. Tell Shareable Stories
Social platforms drive the majority of attention these days and those social platforms are driven by shareable content.
With that in mind it’s important for publicists to not only tell their clients’ stories as “news,” but to tell those stories in a shareable way. That’s the key to unlocking the attention you ultimately hope to receive.
You must craft stories that tell more than just the who, what, where, when, and why.
You need stories that answer a different set of questions for your audience:
“Who else in my life needs to know this?”
“What does this mean for me?”
“Where is this coming from or going to?”
“When is this going to impact me?”
“Why should I care?”
Recognize there’s a difference between why people consume media and why they share it.
To get the attention you want, you have to unlock that shareability.
3. Get Creative
I can’t believe people still send press releases.
We live in a world with infinite ways to tell your story – most of which are very inexpensive – and a press release is the least compelling way to capture people’s interest.
Whether you choose to utilize a video, GIF, website, app, infographic, tweet or even something as simple as a blog post, you’ll be better served putting your news into the world in just about any form other than a press release.
There’s never been more competition for attention in history and you need every advantage you can muster. Sending a traditional press release won’t help you get noticed – it just sends a message that there’s nothing exceptional about your news.
4. Develop and Leverage Your Own Following
Just because your job is to promote your clients doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work to build your own following as well.
There’s a lot of value – to both yourself and your clients – in establishing yourself as an influencer in your given field.
Whether you choose to do it through social media, speaking engagements, press, or relationship building, it’s important to develop a following that you can leverage on behalf of your clients.
5. Create Your Own Platform
One of the best ways to develop a following for yourself is to build a platform.
This platform could take the form of a blog, a newsletter, a Twitter account, a podcast, a recurring guest column, or whatever else fits your particular strengths and needs.
The point is every publicist should establish a platform they can build equity in that will get them noticed not only by potential clients, but more importantly by other influencers within their clients industry.
Platforms are powerful and can unlock opportunities you can deliver to your clients which otherwise would not be possible.
6. Be Human, Not Perfect
Remember the days of “image is everything?” When everybody tried to make themselves and their clients seem bigger and better than they might have been?
Those days are over.
Now, thanks largely to social media, people want to connect with (at least what they perceive to be) regular people. They’re wary of anything that’s too corporate, too polished, too professional, too formal.
Think about it:
We’re in an era where one of our biggest music stars (Kanye West) puts out an album and immediately says it’s not finished and is a work in progress. And a major political movement has swelled around a candidate (Donald Trump) whose appeal is largely based on his imperfections and that he’s not a polished politician.
You don’t need to go to the extremes of Kanye or Trump of course, but it’s important to recognize what’s happening in the larger media space and keep it in mind as you develop your communications strategy.
Stop trying to make clients seem perfect and allow them to be real – even if real is flawed.
Ultimately, it will help people connect to them.
7. Don’t Overrate Media Brands
Getting a story in USA Today or Time magazine doesn’t mean what it used to mean.
It used to be that landing in the pages (or websites) of these publications was a huge hit and one that certainly looked great on a clip report to a client.
But when print publications moved to the web (chasing the eyeballs of their readership), there became a fundamental change in what being featured in those publications meant.
That’s because there was no longer limited print space – their websites are basically unlimited. So getting coverage on one of them doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get seen there – it just means you get a page there.
In fact, if you look into the traffic of many of these legacy media brands, you’ll see that more often than not getting featured on their sites drives significantly less traffic than other small blogs you probably never heard of.
The point isn’t to trash these legacy brands, but rather to recognize that the real value is based on the traffic driven to an individual piece and that’s not necessarily tied to the brand.
Don’t get distracted by the sexiness of brand name hits – focus on where people are actually paying attention. That’s what really matters for your clients.
8. Set Concrete Success Metrics
You can only improve that which you measure and too often PR campaigns (and marketing campaigns for that matter) are launched without a clear sense of what they’re trying to accomplish.
Awareness isn’t a goal – it’s a step toward an action you want somebody to take. That action is the goal.
In mapping out your PR campaign, think through how the awareness you generate will convert to action and look for ways to directly measure the steps it takes to get there.
If you’re promoting a new product with a video, make sure that video incorporates a call to action and links to drive people to the next step – and just the effectiveness of your campaign in large part on those actions.
All the views in the world don’t matter if they’re not converting into actions.
9. Focus On a Key Demo
Let’s be honest: No matter how great a publicist you are, you can’t please everybody and you can’t fully control the story.
The media is no longer the only ones that can reach the world with their comments – every single person who uses social media has that ability. That has unleashed a noisy world in which every opinion gets its time in the sun.
But that’s ok as long as you recognize that not everybody is going to be a fan of your client or their work.
We live in a world where transparency is no longer an option – it’s a prerequisite.
You can try to keep something quiet or spin your way out of an issue, but ultimately it’s going to surface.
You can’t change these circumstances, but you can frame them for yourself and your client by recognizing that it only matters what the key demographic you’re trying to reach has to say about the thing you’re promoting.
There are going to be haters and there will be blowback no matter what you do. But the key is to select and focus your efforts on connecting to your key demographic and being willing to brush off any negativity that comes from outside that demographic.
Focus on the audience that matters, which is always somebody and never everybody.
10. Learn How Platforms Work
New media platforms surface every day and the speed with which they reach critical mass is mind-boggling. But that’s no excuse for not understanding them.
It’s amazing how many publicists are clueless about how social platforms work when it’s these platforms that are the lifeblood of the people they need to reach on behalf of their clients.
Every publicist knows how to post on Facebook and Twitter, but most don’t fully understand what happens there.
Take the time to learn – both by studying and using these platforms – in order to best serve your clients. You should know what users look for on Facebook and how it differs from what they look for on Twitter, you should understand how the Snapchat audience differs from Pinterest, and you should get how Reddit’s community differs from YouTube’s.
And remember that these platforms constantly evolve so your work to understand them will never actually be done.
But if you stay on top of it, the potential rewards for you and your clients are massive. Which is really the point of all of this in the first place. Good luck!
Your Turn: How Do You Think Social Media Is Changing PR?
I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences about how social media is changing publicity.
Please post them in the comments or hit me up on Twitter. Thanks!