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Media Relations Is Dying—Here’s Why PR Folks Should Celebrate

David OatesBy David Oates, APR, Founder, Stalwart Communications

The day is finally here; one that we all forecasted, but few are rejoicing. The era of pitching stories to news outlets that generate impactful coverage for most organizations, particularly the small and mid-sized varietals, is, for all intents and purposes, dying.

Welcome to the new age of PR—one that will eventually be devoid of media relations.

Most who’ve practice the art are mourning its impending loss and struggling to find their place in a world where just about every audience is able—and more important, willing—to consume information without the use of a traditional intermediary, such as the 6 o’clock news. Such outlets now share the stage with hundreds of thousands of others, many of them independent writers armed with a YouTube account and smartphone. The public now has a seemingly limitless amount of choices when it comes to gathering the news of the day.

Sure, many of these outlets are fodder, but many more are not. More to the point—the public can go directly to the source for the information they value and while on the go. Want to find out about the political issues of the day? Simply follow the Twitter feeds of your elected representatives or candidates on your iPhone. Got a favorite college football team? No problem! Just click on the latest video clips from that university’s YouTube channel. Need a stock quote? Download the company’s Android app.

Moreover, consumers can interact with all forms of communications where, when and how they want while also providing immediate feedback. The likes of Pandora, Spotify, AppleTV, Netflix, Amazon Prime and Roku will eventually bring about the end of the radio and television affiliate/syndicate models. More of these services are on the way as the cost to set up and launch this type of online entertainment channel is now nearly zero.

We’re in a brave new world and many PR folks are running scared. I’d submit, however, that it’s never been a better time to be in this profession. While the strategies and tactics are quickly changing, our role as facilitators of conversation with key publics has never been in greater demand. We’re just now going to do it directly with our intended audience.

This means we’ll need to be broadcasters ourselves who create credible, thought-provoking content that engages our audiences in discussions around topics of interest to them, as well as the organizations we represent. Gone will be the day of puffery, where one-dimensional, gimmicky campaigns litter email and post office boxes. Good PR people will relish in sharing control of the brand with their publics and be open to candid, nearly instantaneous feedback that this new environment affords. We’ll seek to share the shaping of corporate messaging with the audience and encourage them to share point of views with friends and family. The content we generate will highlight the true characteristics of the organizations that we represent and be provided in such a way as to not solicit a direct return for its investment by the recipients. Yet, what we’ll see is a level of loyalty and patronage that had never been garnered before.

We will house this content on our own media channels, formerly known as blogs. They will include video shorts as well as written articles. We’ll broadcast these channels via YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Periscope, Instagram and email. The traffic that we drive to the sites will be active and ready to convert. And while the days of newswire services and AP Style-conforming press releases are dwindling in numbers, good PR practitioners will never have greater influence or impact to an organization’s mission.

This transition will most certainly be bumpy and not without its growing pains for agencies and practitioners alike. There is no doubt, though, that the days of dwindling media relations are finally here. I, for one, am celebrating its arrival.

David Oates, APR, is the Founder of Stalwart Communications, a Pay-on-Performance PR firm servicing small to mid-sized clients nationwide. He can be reached at david@stalwartcom.com.

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