A challenge to all PR pros
Confidence in traditional media in the U.S. is down, if the results of a recent Gallup poll are to be believed. Americans continue to express near record-low confidence in newspapers and television news – with no more than 25 percent of Americans saying they have a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in either.
This is a highly compelling – and frankly, somewhat dire – reminder that to create provocative, influential and successful PR programs for our clients, we have to be sure to include many different channels of engagement to get our messages to our intended audience.
We all understand the power of social media, with massive numbers of people engaging in networks from Facebook and Twitter, to Groupon, Foursquare and countless others. Building programs that can live within these networks is critical for a brand’s success and offer marketers the opportunity to get straight to the intended consumer, bypassing the need to engage traditional media to tell our story for us.
Similarly, event and experiential marketing activity is a great way to bring the brand directly to the consumer. Think about the lines of people eagerly awaiting a scoop of free Ben and Jerry’s (client) ice cream on Free Cone Day or the rush to grab free samples of 100-calorie snack packs after exiting the morning subway train.
But, we can’t ignore traditional media outlets, altogether – lest we drive those confidence numbers even lower. We all know a well-placed article in The New York Times or Huffington Post reaches millions, and the third-party credibility of a well-respected editor telling our story doesn’t hurt, either. Yet, this is exactly what makes Gallup’s recent revelations so troubling. How should this change our approach to media relations?
It comes down to doing our jobs better. We have to help editors tell our story in the most transparent, clear and honest manner we can. This means challenging our clients to give us more than marketing group-approved key messages and really getting into the meat of what makes our brands work, so that we can be fair, balanced and truthful brand advocates. It also means doing our own due diligence in following competitive brands so we can present our editors with a 360° view of our story. It means more work for us, a better pitch for our editors and a better story for their readers.
Can PR pros impact the shift of people’s confidence in traditional news media? I think we can. As brand consultants and strategists, we are in a unique position to help our clients tell better stories. And this is through accuracy, fairness and taking a few risks. I challenge us all to think about the consumer next time we write a pitch. We can impact the quality of what is reported, and we owe it to our clients, and ourselves, to do so.