Media Relations and its Challenges in an Era of Fractured Journalism

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Kathleen Reid is the Founder and Managing Director of Switchboard PR Agency

In our last Speaker Series event, held on March 14th at the SFU downtown campus, attendees had the opportunity to learn from Kathleen Reid, one of BC's top tech industry communicators and Founder of Switchboard PR Agency, about the challenges media relations professionals face in an era of fractured journalism.

Kathleen explained that constant changing of the media landscape such as content creation by online influencers, reduction of reporters in newsrooms, and the instant access to information has decreased the effectiveness of traditional media relations tools.

She discussed five main topics that public relations professionals should pay attention to in order to be more successful while trying to pitch the media:

1) How to earn and maintain credibility in today's newsrooms:

  • Create your bank of goodwill: Nurture honest relationship with journalists. Do not call, try to meet them in person or connect through Twitter or Instagram.

  • Create a strong pitch: Journalists receive around 100 emails per day, so make sure you choose a concise email subject line and write a newsworthy press release (cut the marketing).

  • Be a resource: Journalists are very busy, so if you provide them a great story with all the extra information about the company and multimedia materials they might need, they will see you as a reliable resource and the chances of contacting you in the future to write about your company will increase.    

2) Why media relations and relationships are essential, now more than ever:

  • Smaller newsrooms: There are lesser journalists and reporters working in newsrooms, so PR professionals should be even more competent to attract their attention and get stories published.

  • More trade publications: these publications—usually a magazine, journal or newspaper—have very specific audiences and can target better who you are trying to reach through your story.

  • Public is seeking for credible media: in the era of fake news and content being created by non-journalists, the public is seeking more and more to get informed through quality content, even if it’s paid.

3) How to better leverage your company spokespeople:

  • Do media training: prepare your spokespeople on how to talk to the media and communicate better the message. It’s the company’s reputation that is at stake.

  • Strong spokespeople stand out: Spokespeople don’t need to be the most senior professionals. The strongest spokespeople are those who can talk to the media effectively and have a good relationship with journalists. Naturally they will be contacted again in the future for new inquires and the company will benefit from it.

  • Be available to the media: inform your contact information and be available when reporters want to talk to you. If you are hard to reach, they will give up and find someone else to reach out to.

4) Emerging trends and challenges to watch this year:

  • Influence of trade publications: these publications targeting a specific industry give an opportunity to practitioners to talk about a subject connecting theory with their company’s practices.

  • Importance of B-roll: prepare all multimedia materials necessary to help journalists write their articles.

  • Election year: media will be swamped with news about the election, so watch carefully the news cycle to find a good window to publish your story.

5) Effective ways to achieve earned media coverage in 2019:

  • Strong pitch notes: write only newsworthy press releases and give enough information about the company and good b-roll to help media write about your story.

  • Curated media lists: update your mailing list frequently to have the correct contact information and fields of interest of each journalist.

  • Media monitoring: watch the news and be well informed about not only what is being published about your company but also everything else that is happening.

  • News narratives and connections: another way to have the media attention is connecting your company’s story with relevant facts that happened.

  • Timing: good timing will increase your chances of having your story published by the media.

About the Author

Paula Schütt has a bachelor's degree in Public Relations from UNIVALI and a marketing certificate from Arbutus College. She has over 3 years experience working both in agency and in-house settings for companies in the fitness, logistics, accounting and cosmetics industries. LinkedIn: @paulaschutt

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