I’ve been in public relations, publicity, corporate communications, crisis communications (however you wish to define it ALL!) for almost 15 years now, and I can tell you that the landscape of this industry has dramatically changed, more so in the past five years than in the 10 years before. When I started in this business, email was the new technology, and the Internet was just being figured out by the public and businesses. I’m not calling myself a dinosaur by any means (I’m Web 2.0 savvy!), I’m just giving perspective here.
With the advent of email came the elimination of fax machines. With the advent of the Internet came press rooms and the elimination of paper press kits. Both have served us well, so far. With the speed of light, we can send or find information at our fingertips – and have additional ways to contact or annoy (depending on your point of view) journalists.
This is a tough business to be in – newbie or expert. These days you need to be on top of every social network (we are, as PR people, networkers by nature), every new blog and podcast that covers your industry (or your clients’) and every possible opportunity to get your clients’ names in the news. We have MySpace, Twitter, blogs, trade magazines, hundreds of consumer magazines – so many ways to reach the media, yet it seems more difficult than ever. Email, cell phones, IM, text messaging, super-lightweight laptops, Wi-Fi, Blackberries – more technology to supposedly make our lives easier. We’re in a world which now has a 24-hour news cycle and expects instant gratification.
So, has any of it made us any more or less productive, and do we reach journalists any better or more effectively? The answer is, yes and no. But I do know we need to adapt and become more creative in order to be good in PR.
Did you know that press releases were originally mailed out on paper? (A “roar” from the dinosaur can be heard throughout this city – EEK!) Then, they were sent by fax, then by email, then posted on CD’s and company websites.
With the advent of the Social Media Press Release (A sample “SMPR” can be found here), PR has fully embraced the digital age. According to socialmediarelease.org, a site created by Todd Defren and Brian Solis, the SMPR “was created in response to Tom Foremski’s public call for the death of press releases. The template provided, for the first time, a one-stop resource for bloggers, journalists, and people, to find relevant information for constructing stories without the B.S., or as Foremski called it, the ‘spintastic’ messaging prevalent in traditional press releases.”
So the conventional press release format doesn’t work for everyone – and nor should a press release (of any kind) be used for every client. Some clients simply require a fantastic pitch letter to get the journalist’s attention and not a release that gets deleted as soon as it’s seen. Press releases aren’t going to die (or aren’t hitting the graveyard just yet), either, although their formats may adapt and change.
This business is about securing media coverage for your client/company in any way, shape or form. And like the SMPR, publicists have to change and adapt to this new technological environment or fade away, just like paper press kits.