As media’s downsizing translates into it becoming more reliant on public relations to provide it with content, agency and in-house PR pros are developing content which is more closely replicating that which media itself has traditionally generated. Not only is PR pitching ideas with excellent accompanying content as a basis for coverage, it is actually producing articles, TV news content and blog content in a format which can be used purely as it is, with no editorialising by the media at all.
Apologies for the offline sabbatical of this blog. It’s been undergoing an extensive technical re-build and, um, suffering from the author’s inertia. Hopefully, transmission has been effectively resumed. Thank you for your messages of support and patience. Share the word! Craig
Of course, tales of the media using public relations-generated content as it has been supplied, straight off media releases, with a journalist’s (not the PR pro’s) by-line, are legion. But recent developments are much more revolutionary than this.
This situation is leading to agencies, and in-house professionals in organisations with larger than average budgets, becoming virtual production houses for the media. Video and written pieces for print and social media seem to be the most popular genres of content, but the same has probably been undertaken for radio (and if it hasn’t it won’t be long before this occurs).
These themes are made very apparent in Salt & Shein’s* Trends and Issues in Australian Corporate Affairs Report. The report is an analysis of feedback from over 300 of Australia’s most senior corporate affairs professionals.
Video driving public relations
The acceleration of utilising written content from public relations in the media has certainly ramped up in recent years, but it is doubtlessly video where the real upturn has occurred. Social media and its dimension are the main reasons for this:
- Time and again we see research which underlines the importance of visuals, especially video, in gaining attention in the online environment
- Social media is a major reason why people are turning away from traditional media and getting their information from online sources.
The march towards online has been driven largely by its social media element, but so has it been cultivated by organisations becoming their own news channels. This, in turn, is partly driven by SEO, and its influence in gaining organisations higher ranking positions in Google searches. People aren’t in the habit of digging too far into search results to get a media outlet’s perspective on something if there are information sources (e.g. organisations with a vested interest in it) ranking higher than it.
The diminishing influence of media
As people move online and move social, there has been a diminishing demand for traditional forms of media and, as such, diminishing eyeballs for the advertising which funds the media. Hence, advertisers are investing less money into traditional media. This has led to the massive amount of journalist redundancies which Australia, certainly, has experienced in recent years.
This rationalisation has extended to actual media titles, too, such as the reduction in oil & gas vertical sector publications.
Then put into the mix an increase in platforms through which media operate (e.g. newspapers with their websites and Facebook pages; TV stations with their websites etc), as well as the 24 hour news cycle being a thing of the past due to real-time information being able to be posted online, and what you have is an increasing demand for content but a diminishing capability to deliver said content.
Not for the media, anyway.
The new production house: public relations
But hence the resulting demand for quality content customised to the platform, produced in an acceptably professional manner and in an appropriate format (HD video, for instance).
So public relations has a golden opportunity to become more influential in what the media populates its channels, airwaves and in its old skool hard copy pages and new skool webpages (and whatever you want to call platforms like Facebook and Pinterest).
At least one PR agency I know of – the award-winning PPR out of its Perth office (where I am employed) has taken it a step further than even this.
It is producing magazines which are being placed in a major national newspaper. The magazines look exactly like editorial and they are becoming increasingly popular. Importantly, whilst obviously the articles do not write negatively about featured companies, the articles are written to a high standard and in an interesting manner.
The magazines are becoming increasingly popular and their numbers are increasing. There are probably a few reasons for this:
- The companies paying to be included in the mags can be assured of having positive things written about them, as well as featuring their key messages and positioning them in a manner they find desirable
- The magazines are included in a highly credible media outlet
- The companies are dealing with seasoned professionals at the PR agency, some of whom were formerly journalists themselves and who are certainly familiar with the companies’ industry. This is not an incidental factor as, due to journalist churn and the media’s diminished capacity to keep experienced employees, many current journalists have negligible industry experience, simply don’t know the right questions to ask and, frankly, can be somewhat asinine to speak with (something a CEO is likely to have little patience for).
Media’s decline is not a PR pro’s ideal world
Most public relations professionals with a reasonable amount of worldliness would agree this is not an ideal state of affairs.
The media is there, partially at least, to provide an objective perspective and to ask the hard questions. By doing so, media enriches perspectives and knowledge. They add value to society. Its decline is a great loss.
Then again, when you have a media outlet like those of Rupert Murdoch’s ilk (and here I think of The Australian with its rabid right wing political views that can’t be relied on to, in its political reporting, take any stance other than being an apologist for the right-leaning Liberal Party), then there is not a broad church of opinion or true honesty being offered anyway.
It also brings back into focus the fundamental role of public relations (which is perhaps taking this conversation too far but, as far as I’m concerned, it is still of fundamental and critical importance). This is the issue of public relations chiefly existing to assist organisations and their stakeholders have their interests and objectives more closely aligned.
An irresistible aspect of this is being honest and forthright with each other, acknowledging weaknesses and evolving. Without the (theoretically) honest broker of the media mediating some of this dialectic, and the broker role now leaning more heavily on the moral muscle of PR, which can often be afraid to do anything other than toe the corporate line, what hope do we have of achieving the ideal of companies and community being happy with the effort and actions of each other?
Does the organisation you work for produce content which is used in the media without being edited or adapted at all? Have you noticed changes in the way media uses content from PR professionals? How important is video for your public relations work and have you noticed this form of content being shared more than other content over social media?
*Salt & Shein is a leading public relations, communications and corporate affairs recruiter.