Latest industry views and advice

August 11

What role does media relations – working with journalists and achieving media coverage – play in a world where social media and owned/paid and branded media is ubiquitous?

And how much room is there in the media for companies and brands to be visible at a time when media outlets have fewer journalists, already overwhelmed with “hard news” – exhibits one and two, Covid-19 and the economy?

When the most powerful man in the world – the US president – chooses not the traditional media but Twitter as his primary communications channel (while denigrating mainstream media that disagrees with him as “fake news), companies could be forgiven for wondering whether it’s worth engaging with mainstream media at all.

However, before we give mainstream media the last rites, maybe the question needs asking: who is consuming the media today and how much do they trust what they read, watch or listen to?

According to Edeleman’s 2020 Trust Barometer – a widely-quoted piece of global research based on 34,000 online respondents – 63% of people in the EU trust traditional, mainstream media. This is higher than internet search (55%), owned media (43%) and more than double that for social media (29%). Yes, it has fallen this year (by 2%), but less than search (-3%) and social media (-4%).

So, maybe there’s life in the old, mainstream media dog yet.

In media, we trust…?

The Trust Barometer adds that more than a quarter (26%) of people consume news either weekly or more often and 50% of them are “amplifiers” – sharing and posting several times per month the news they read. This suggests an engaged media audience is out there; one which has remained stable from 2019 and was itself was an increase on 2018.

Another factor feeding into the argument that companies should invest in concerted media relations activity is the value contained in their most valuable resource: their people.

Edelman’s research asks: “When forming an opinion of a company, if you heard information about a company from each person, how credible would the information be?”, while offering a choice of company people and others to choose from.

More than two-thirds (68%) consider a “company technical expert” to the be most trustworthy (an annual increase of 3%); higher than an academic (66%), a general company employee (+1%) or the CEO (no change).

As someone is more likely to read/watch/listen to a company technical expert via the media than, for example, in a supermarket queue or at the bus stop, this continues to boost the value of media relations for business. Otherwise, how will the world get to hear from your trusted technical experts?

What does the media want from companies?

In a recent webinar examining the results of another piece of research, CISION’s 2020 State of the Media Report, Matt Cross of Hotwire noted a strong demand for non-pandemic stories in the trade media. He referenced the digital transformation trend – already in play but accelerated by the pandemic – as something the specialist sector media needs to address for their readers’ benefit.

With his conclusion I concur, having seen a healthy trade media appetite for one client, Fitfactory’s digital transformation story; no doubt helped by the fact the company was willing to take an assertive stance on the topic and be honest with UK manufacturers planning their own post-pandemic recovery. Context is crucial for your news or comment to be credible.

Fitfactory media coverage in Production Engineering Solutions, July 2020

The way that companies package and deliver their news, feature ideas or potential comment articles is, more than ever, a saleable commodity for the media seeking clicks from search and e-bulletins as well as direct readers: so, the question is, will a piece of editorial content bring in new readers and deliver a return? Attracting and keeping readers is critical, as well as finding ways to monetise content.

Therefore, creating a story that resonates with the widest possible audience, across different media platforms, is essential for companies’ media relations activity.

From the editor’s mouth

In the days before Covid-19 – when having a humble coffee meeting with someone outside your household was a low-risk pastime – getting face-to-face with journalists was always a good way to get to know them and their particular, editorial interests.

While that option is off the table, the digital alternative is – at least – filling in some of the gaps. A recent online interview with Marketing Week editor Russell Parsons and Joe Glover of The Marketing Meetup, offered a great insight into what journalists want from companies. And, having listened to his opinions, I believe they apply across any industry sector.

So, from the perspective of a well-established and respected trade publication, Parsons highlighted what makes editorial tick and how companies’ news output can coincide with it:

  • Celebrating what “good looks like”
  • Covering stories that matter to readers and their jobs
  • Helping readers do their jobs better and improve their professional lives
  • Showing what is having impact and influence in the industry
  • Sharing real innovation
  • Demonstrating the context around what a company is doing, what makes it valuable and different

The point of Parson’s that resonated most was – for me, as a former journalist as well as PR professional – that a bona fide business story is one that “transcends the company” and, therefore, is both interesting and of value to a wider audience.

Without doubt, the pathways through the modern media landscape have become both much more populous and more fragmented. What was previously the standard, linear route for business communications – from company via PR agency to publication – is now surrounded by an interconnected network of influencers, social channels and corporate self-publishing.

However, as the research shows, it’s too soon to declare the death of the mainstream media – whether local, national or specialist. So, business leaders and marketers need to recognise that well-planned and executed media relations activity retains its relevance and its value in 21st century communications.

To get the most from your media relations activity, email Metamorphic PR or call 0161 672 7000.

To see media relations in action, view our more recent media relations case studies and our (older) media relations case studies.

Also in this series:

#1 Brand strategy for post-pandemic business recovery

#2 Video for post-pandemic business recovery

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