How our media relations agency is evolving with the changing media landscape
By Deirdre Campbell
Thursday, August 16 2018
Canada’s media landscape is changing – it’s barely recognizable from what existed when I was starting out in media relations in the 1990s. While I stay committed to my home delivery and love the feel of newsprint in my hands, I am beginning to feel like a dinosaur.
While time and technology have been cruel to our printed press, radio and TV broadcasting are in far better shape, although they, too, are enduring their own web-induced upheavals.
But as an integrated communications agency, we’ve been ideally placed to exploit the rise of digital media. And with that, we’ve capitalized on the emergence of the online influencer and social media marketing.
Want to find out about travel or make-up? There’s someone on Instagram who has been there or done that – and posted the photos. Want some parenting advice? You’ll find plenty on Twitter, with links back to their blog. And on Facebook, you’ll find the new-look media, the likes of Vancouver or Victoria Buzz, for example.
Get to the correct audience
For pretty much any topic you can think of, there’s someone tweeting, Instagram photo blogging, or posting on Facebook about it. What a public relations agency has to do is find the person best suited to a client’s needs, while reaching the right audience for that client.
It offers a more defined, structured method of communication and plays to our strengths as an integrated communications agency. It’s an effective way of reaching an engaged audience on their medium of choice.
Back in the old days, traditional media saturated our culture. Old hands – and by that I mean people who came into the industry as late as the 1990s – joke about weighing their clients’ press cuttings to judge a campaign’s success. If you put a good newsy release out, you could be pretty sure it would be picked up and used by newspapers and magazine wanting to fill space.
The evolution of the market has been rapid. Not too long ago, print and broadcast news were top of the tree. Back in the 50s, more newspapers were sold in our country than there were homes. Now, you’ll find a paid-for paper in fewer than one in five homes, with people scrolling through their daily on their mobile or tablet.
The well-written press release
With that reduction in the number of newspapers being published and sold, and reduced pagination due to falling advertising sales, each press release our public relations agency produces faces a fight to claim space in a newspaper.
However, as newspapers’ staffing levels are much lower that means a well-written press release, with a strong news hook has a better chance of making it into print with minimal editing than it would have in the days when reporters and editors were legion.
Commercially driven changes have also affected what newspapers are covering. For example, our two biggest titles – The National Post and The Globe and Mail – no longer have dedicated travel sections, narrowing potential coverage opportunities for our public relations and marketing agency’s tourism clients.
The local press has seen huge upheaval, with papers closed or amalgamated into larger titles. Staff have been moved out of the communities they serve, distancing them from their readers. About 300 weekly papers have shut down, with dozens of daily newspapers also going to the wall. This is bad for news, bad for democracy, and bad for the communities they served.
There has been a rise of online and social media community news but their pieces can be more fluffy, commercial and aimed at grabbing clicks. Their readership tends to be younger, which is great – because young people certainly aren’t reading the printed press.
The reach of radio
Radio has been retrenching but not to the same levels as the printed press. Because of the size of our country, it’s less expensive to distribute than the printed word so it’s no wonder we’ve got about 2000 radio stations.
Radio is also available on the go – I can get all the news I need to set me up for the day on my way to work, and it’s that ease of access that has made podcasts popular, too.
The evolution of how we devour our information is far from over. How many of us start the day by asking Alexa for the news, weather and travel, for example? And by 2020, half of the search queries made online are predicted to be spoken – the voice assistant is a technology in its infancy.
Even in this evolving media landscape, the opportunities exist for our clients to engage prospective customers by means far more precise than a press release.
Find the right influencer
That means finding the right online influencer – someone with an engaged audience that matches up with a particular client’s aspirations. It means building a relationship and providing that influencer with a story or service they can create engaging content about. And it still means it’s all about relationships and providing traditional reporters with well-crafted releases with strong news hooks. There’s nothing ground-breaking about social media marketing … it’s an evolution of what has gone before.
The job of an integrated communications agency has not changed. It’s still our responsibility to get our clients the right coverage in the right place at the right time.
The means of delivering that coverage have changed, and will continue to change. And you can guarantee we’ll continue to evolve right alongside the media to ensure our clients share their stories to the right audiences which leads to better awareness and higher conversions.
Beattie Tartan is the integrated communications specialist. Call 800 400 3831 to learn how we can boost your brand.