Corporate communications continues to evolve at break neck speed as innovative agencies, professionals and brands test new strategies and tactics to engage with key industry and media influencers. As we ponder what the future will hold for PR and media relations in the New Year, we expect that much of the “new normal” will continue as practitioners leverage new ways to engage media and create meaningful dialogue. We anticipate that the media relations headlines for 2016 will be: content, consolidation and crisis.
Content is finally being recognized as the cornerstone of successful media relations programs. Compelling, edgy and even controversial content is the basis of a robust thought leadership program designed to insert an executive or brand into the heart of industry conversation and drives the most successful communications initiatives.
However, as content marketing has gained more prominence and budget in the overall marketing mix, PR needs to be a careful steward of the company’s brand and its precious relationships with media and bloggers. We should recognize content marketing and media relations as two distinct functions while acknowledging the power of alignment and synergies.
A comprehensive news and media strategy should be consistent with the themes and key messages that organizations are underscoring in their content programs. However, not every content asset has “legs” for a pitch nor does it warrant a home on a news site or blog. Rather, our job is to think about the themes, experts and key trends that the content asset is communicating and determine creative ways to engage reporters and editors on these topics. There are often synergies between content marketing and PR, opportunities to leverage content assets for a PR/media relations campaign and vice versa—again, it is our role to identify and capitalize on those opportunities.
New media platforms offer new content opportunities to consider as well. PR’s role is to evaluate new platforms and the media formats they employ, to assess the potential value to each company’s unique target audience and to facilitate the testing of the platforms and formats that are most effective.
While we may be disheartened by 2015 publishing industry headlines – layoffs, magazines closing and sites being shut down – there are new platforms (Twitter Moments, featuring the best stories happening on Twitter, curated by Twitter and select partners), outlets (Stat, a life sciences publication from the Boston Globe Media Partners) and sites (the recently reincarnated Gigaom) to celebrate and target in the New Year.
Mainstream and social media, trade press and bloggers continue to pilot new ways to engage readers, tell a story and hold a mirror to businesses and governments. Whether it’s video, graphics, guest columns or events, publishing companies and editors are on the hunt for compelling content. Our job will be to stay on the edge of these new formats finding ways to engage and make our clients and brands relevant.
There is no predicting and oftentimes no preventing a major crisis—from the truly tragic to the tragically laughable—situations that will require skilled messaging and timely execution. There are, however, every day PR crisis which can be averted with carefully thought and planning. New media and outlets will require new rules.
Ranging in severity from a minor hiccup to a major news leak moment, social media has become the de facto standard for “breaking (unfiltered and sometimes not-fact-checked) news” and Twitter or Facebook has burned many a PR practitioner. In 2016, we should see even more attention and strategic planning focused on managing social channels as a communications opportunity and a threat when it comes to news planning. Being mindful about pitch content, interviews (and ground rules for topics discussed) and educating executives who could accidentally spill important news before it breaks should all be considered, planned and managed.
In other words, we need to be very thoughtful about what we put in pitches, discuss under embargo and allow our clients to mention at a cocktail party or tweet/chat/text about—a big news item is just a few key strokes away from being cannibalized/distorted/misrepresented.
Like the years before it, 2016 will continue to bring innovation and change in the PR industry and beyond. By keeping on top of the “new normal” and staying in-the-know, PR professionals will be armed with the solutions they need to succeed and provide the best possible counsel to their clients.