My first gig in DC
was an internship in the White House press office. Back then, we assembled the press clips by–yes, truth–actually clipping articles. We’d photocopy a newspaper story, cut it out, tape it to a clean sheet of paper and photocopy it. Times are a little different now. Here’s the problem: Many press shops haven’t changed the way they operate–and that’s preventing their organizations from effectively interacting with the press.
How many of your press shops, for example, write press release with Twitter-ready headlines, ones a reader could–literally–paste into 140 characters? How many of those press releases consistently include images, audio or video? If not, might be time to 2017 your approach.
Modern press operations need to fulfill five foundational responsibilities:
Demonstrating a clear link between the organization’s bottom-line business objectives and the press operation’s daily work. No let’s get in the New York Times for the sake of getting in the New York Times; if you’re working on Times placement, you’re doing so for a strategic end. Part of this involves quantifying media impact in terms that matter to the organization: Mentions or ad value don’t mean anything. Moving the needle with the intended audience matters.
Planning the organization’s long-term narrative and tying daily activities back to it. Not a single Tweet happens without a purpose; all tactics advance the larger strategy.
Proactively working phones, email and digital channels at once. Deadlines are dead. Reporters update stories several times a day. Media team members need a hybrid of traditional and digital skills and can think like journalists, opportunistically providing audio, video and written content before it’s requested.
Forecasting what big trends will drive future business (eg: If you’re a logistics company, supply chain sustainability will increasingly matter) and finding ways to ride those trends. Predicting and spotting roadblocks before they’re upon you and taking the actions necessary to circumnavigate them. Media relations includes playing defense. But if the media team is predicting what might happen–and planning for it–that defense becomes smarter, faster and stronger.
Maintaining and growing an active network of reporters and–even more–the individuals and groups who influence those reporters. Social media increasingly sets the agenda. Understanding who reporters follow and influencing them.
Now there’s clearly more to it: Having a recognized media image matters. Reporters get loads of content. How does the organization’s content set itself apart before the journalists reads, watches or listens to it? Do press releases look like Word documents or have a brand feel?
Medium matters: What organizations say is important. How they say it – and who’s speaking on their behalf–can be more important. Imagine pitching reporters over Twitter or with LinkedIn ads that are, in essence, pitches. We can take the best practices from digital advertising and apply them in the press setting, delivering narrative with traditional and digital engagement and targeting specific reporters with personalized pitches.
Writing clearly matters: OpEds are important but long-form writing isn’t the modern standard. If we can’t grab a reader in a sentence, we’re finished.
At a minimum, however, fulfilling the responsibilities above will help build a business-rooted and results-driven press operation. Like an organization’s sales or membership operation, press is a business development function. Instilling the way of thinking we’ve described can mold it in that mindset, tangibly linking tactics and results.