Today’s media cycle is ripe with daily stories on holiday shopping trends, best deals, the election and the pending impeachment; an unforgiving, volatile, challenging and exhausting circumstance, especially for consumer brands.
With the White House utilizing Twitter to announce major news, combined with the lead up to the presidential election and stories democratic campaigns imploding, the landscape in which to share the benefits of consumer product stories, e.g. the latest fashion trend, or best in class technology for footwear, gear and apparel, is not for the faint of heart and is shrinking. For journalists, it is like standing in front of a tennis ball machine — juggling the ability to make quick decisions against what will have the most impact for their readers, viewers, and yes, stockholders.
Not only does today’s media cycle move at warp speed, it opens the doors for more mistakes. CEOS that make careless mistakes, whether an apology or an off the cuff remark can be crucified online within a matter of minutes, and repairing brand reputation can take years. In addition, there is less space for more in -depth coverage. This is not to say that generating important, impactful stories whether it is online, print or broadcast is impossible; it is saying that landing this kind of coverage requires a more carefully thought- out strategy and will likely take a longer period of time to materialize.
While a brand may have worked long and hard to determine the best timing for a particular story, it could be completely derailed by breaking news. The ability to adapt and regroup is critical.
Lastly, media companies are turning into content generators as their traditional mode of business has disappeared (some are in survival mode) and affiliate marketing is commonplace. The competition for media attention is fierce.
Even so, there exists time-tested (and evolving) PR best practices that can lead to the desired outcome, some of which may seem obvious, but nevertheless, are critical to achieving success:
- Engage with Media Throughout the Year; Not Just When You Need Them: As PR professionals, we must be voracious consumers of the news, keeping journalists on our radar consistently. Comment on their stories, even if they have nothing to do with your brand. In other words, engage and nurture those relationships year round so that when it is time to launch your news or pitch your story, it is easier.
- A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats: The media’s job today is taxing to say the least. Deadlines are brutal, fed by a constantly changing news cycle that is 24-7. If you are working with a reporter on a story, ensure that he or she has the widest range of resources, even if that resource is not your client or brand. Journalists, of course, are connected, but shortening that process for securing sources goes a long way in building a relationship and moving the story forward.
- Give Media A Reason Why Your Story is Relevant Right Now: Decisions about what content to publish or what segment to air is governed by clicks and views and viewers. A story must be relevant to what audiences are interested in now. Be smart about your timing and consider if there is a national news hook that is prevalent. Choose a news hook carefully; it must be authentic and definitely do not “newsjack” to such an extreme or you will invite an unappealing social media storm.
- Greater Patience is Required But Follow Up is Wise: In today’s media storm, planning, coupled with hard work will result in success. It takes an immense amount of patience. Be prepared to wait, though follow up with media is wise. It is important to walk a fine line between appropriate check-ins versus nagging.
- A Thank You is Most Welcome: Sometimes, it is the small things that matter. Saying thank you to a reporter on a story that you enjoyed (even if it is not the one important to you) is key. With media being overworked, small gestures go a long way.