There have been some remarkable changes in the media landscape over the past few years. These changes have affected the way people connect with one another, how they communicate with each other, and how they find information and news.
The practice of Public Relations is about reaching out to stakeholders and building relationships. It’s about communication and the consumption of information and news. For the last 100 years, we’ve been using mass media, but we’re rapidly learning that online media is our future.
Online PR Tips
1. Why Online PR is important
In the Summer of 2005 research shows that a significant percent of Web users who read newspapers had transferred their readership primarily to the online version. By 2008 that number had jumped to 40 percent. In 2016 that number was 62 percent and the Pew State of the Media report revealed digital news sources to be second only to television as the most frequently accessed type of media source.
The sudden jump in online news and the slide in newspaper readership became apparent in 2008 and we saw the first papers close down. In 2009 this trend accelerated. By April 2009 newspaper readership was down again and by October it had slipped yet another 11 percent. The estimated total U.S. daily newspaper circulation (print and digital combined) in 2018 was 28.6 million for weekday and 30.8 million for Sunday, down 8%, and 9%, respectively, from the previous year. In 2019, this trend was still declining.
Then came 2020 and COIVD-19.
One reliable way to gauge readership is by advertising spend. Ad revenue is based on the readership. According to a new forecast from Interpublic Group’s media-research unit Magna, Ad revenue for traditional media could fall as much as 12% in 2020 due to the pandemic
By contrast, online news sites are seeing excellent growth in the number of visitors.
The Top 10 News Sites as of August 2020:
- Yahoo News: 175 million
- Google News: 150 million
- Huffington Post: 110 million
- CNN: 95 million
- New York Times: 70 million
- Fox News: 65 million
- NBC: 63 million
- Mail Online: 53 million
- Washington Post: 47 million
- The Guardian: 42 million
This list has undergone some dramatic changes in the last five years. There is no doubt that the future of PR is closely tied to online PR and digital media relations.
2. Pitching in Online PR – Journalists
The relationship between PR people and journalists is well established. Pitching stories to journalists is a part of our job. And as long as online magazines and newspaper websites operate on the mass media model, that relationship will remain the same. However, the job of an online journalist has changed. He or she is now expected to have digital skills. Editors demand images, video, and audio with every story. When you pitch an online outlet bear in mind that you need to offer them these digital elements.
A press release written in the old inverted triangle format, using text only, is no longer enough. All news content needs to be search-optimized and have multimedia elements presented in the social media format.
3. Working with Bloggers
Although many journalists are also bloggers, most of the bloggers out there are not employed by a newspaper, magazine, or TV channel. They are not being paid to write their blog, it’s either a labor of love or it’s their own business.
So they are not part of the mainstream media and they are not used to dealing with PR people. It is changing slowly, but be aware that the relationship with a blogger is very different from the one with a journalist. In fact, earlier this year some mommy bloggers got so annoyed up with PR pitches that called for a PR moratorium in blogs for a week.
Bloggers have become very influential. Reaching out to the right bloggers for your business should be an integral part of your media relations work. But they won’t use your news just because you send them a press release. They are looking for great content that will add value to their blog. The ‘pet peeve’ of journalists is that PR folk pitch indiscriminately – we don’t do our homework. Doing your homework with bloggers is the make/break issue.
Read their blogs. Watch their videos. Read the comments and get a feel for their readers’ views. Comment on their blog posts, when appropriate. Read their blogroll. See if they are on Twitter and follow them there. See who else follows them. Start a conversation and reach out to them – without a pitch. Then figure out what kind of content would be applicable – what would really get their interest. Create a great piece of content and then contact them.
Creating a relationship first is always the best way to work with bloggers. It is the only way to work with someone who has influence and a large following.
However, it is possible to send a cold email pitch to the long tail bloggers, as long as it is well prepared and relevant.
Create a great social media news release with many digital elements, so that each blogger can craft an individual blog post out of what you have prepared. Make it easy for the blogger to take and use the content. Add embed code to all images and videos. A good example of this is the Fresh Air Fund’s drive to find host families for kids over the summer. They got hundreds of blog posts from their social media release.
4. Online PR Skills
PR practitioners have to learn some new skills to excel in online PR. Technology is changing the media world and we have to learn these new skills.
SEO – search engine optimization. If you want to compete in the online PR world you have to know how to make your news content search-friendly. Even mainstream media news outlet like The New York Times now optimize their content for search. Your news content on your site has to be easy to find and easy for journalists to use. 98% of journalists start a story by doing a search on the topic. Will your news content show up?
Social Media. Bloggers and journalists are increasingly using social media tools to help them find news sources and content. All news content must be available in feeds (RSS). Have a presence on Facebook and Twitter. Follow the journalists and bloggers you want to build relationships with. Be strategic – learn how to do a social media strategy that integrates with your PR plan.
Video. The Video News Release has long been a staple of the PR toolbox. Online video is growing rapidly and this is a very useful tool PR people can use to reach their audience. Online videos are much easier to produce than VNR’s – and they cost much less too.
An interactive video is a new technology that allows you to add assets to the video so that if only the video is republished your other content can travel along with it. Also, you can get measurement/analytics of where the video went and how many times it was viewed.
Online Reputation Management. One of the core functions of PR is to enhance and protect the reputation of the company. There have already been many examples of online reputation problems – Dell Hell, AOL customer service, Comcast service, Kryptonite locks to name just a few. Negative content online can rise to page one in the search engines very fast – and unless it is proactively dealt with it will remain there for years. Understanding how to deal with online content and search is a vital online PR skill.
The new world of Online PR can appear to be overwhelming, but don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. All the basics of PR still apply. You’re working in a new medium, to be sure, and that medium demands an understanding of new technologies. But everything you learned in PR 101 has to be applied too.
Online PR is about good communication. It’s about listening. It’s about relationships. It’s about providing really good news content to the right person at the right time. It’s about transparency and honesty.
And PR should always be about those things – online or off.