The transformation of communications in the past decade has had profound impact on society, and yet for corporations, the foundation of media relations has remained largely unchanged. The first press release was issued in 1906 and Woodrow Wilson held the first press conference in March 1913. For these tactics, like many of the key fixtures of the PR profession, there has been minimal innovation in structure or function despite the introduction of new technologies and mediums; until now. Over a century later, with newsrooms drastically shrinking, faith in the media being called into question and Gen Z entering the workforce, new approaches are starting to emerge.
Modernization can be an opportunity for the industry. Last year, 83% of chief communications officers reported that their C-suite influence is growing because of the vital role that stakeholder communications play in business success. In fact, poor communication accounts for $1.2 trillion in annual loss among U.S. businesses.
The following list highlights the innovative ways that the PR industry is evolving. Recognizing that the tried-and-true methods (e.g., press releases, press conferences, etc.) will continue to drive tangible value for many companies, this list identifies some exciting new options that are worth exploring to better reach key consumer audiences and tell stories in more dynamic and engaging ways.
Traditional: Press Releases
Innovative: Social Media and Multimedia Announcements
Press releases were designed to make covering an announcement easy for journalists by adopting a format from which media outlets could easily pull information. Over the years, many outlets stopped re-printing press releases, and even with press release distribution services, reaching desired audiences through this tactic has become increasingly difficult.
While press releases can drive organic coverage and are often necessary to reach B2B and investor audiences (e.g., M&A deals, earnings reports), new formats present opportunities to better amplify newsworthy announcements among consumer audiences. To achieve a more personal and informal announcement, executives can release the news on social media, though formats such as LinkedIn articles, or with a video news release. This approach can expand the reach of an announcement by leveraging social media and humanizing the news through the voice of the CEO. LinkedIn Executive Chairman Jeff Weiner fittingly announced the company’s new CEO in a both sentimental and informative LinkedIn article that achieved over 25,000 engagements. Other CEOs have used this tactic to share new company strategies or consumer-facing announcements. If the news is truly breaking, journalists will take notice as they did with Jeff Weiner’s resignation. If not, key constituencies that care about the news such as customers, employees and partners will be more likely to see it.
Traditional: Press Conferences
Innovative: Audio & Video Streaming Forums
Press conferences are used to grant a large number of journalists access to executives in a short amount of time, usually in person or in a hybrid setting. They can be an efficient and effective medium for answering questions from many journalists without having to set up dozens of interviews. They are best used for high-profile breaking news and international events, which provide a clear purpose and convenience for journalists. However, without a convening event or hard news hook, press conferences can also be inconvenient, boring and exclusive.
As live streaming and audio have grown in popularity, so too have their capabilities for broadcasting announcements and interacting with journalists. Platforms like Twitter Spaces, YouTube Live and Instagram Live provide easy access for both journalists and wider audiences and enable deeper levels of engagement, visibility and interaction in a competitive media environment. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, these platforms were used as a solution to conduct safe, socially distanced press conferences. At that time, the music group BTS transitioned its press conference to YouTube Live and was able to invite both journalists and fans to ask questions and join the live stream. By tapping into the platforms that journalists and consumers regularly use, PR teams can create a multiplier effect, reach new reporters and customers, and build more meaningful relationships.
Traditional: Radio Media Tours (RMTs) & Satellite Media Tours (SMTs)
Innovative: Influencer Channels & Podcast Tours
Traditional RMTs and SMTs are an efficient and cost-effective way to achieve high levels of local media exposure across the country through a series of back-to-back spokesperson interviews in a single day. However, streaming services have had a major impact on which audiences listen to the radio and watch live TV. Given this decline in traditional radio and TV viewership, organizations need to meet key audiences where they are by diversifying channels to include influencer interviews and podcast tours.
Just like an RMT or SMT, interviews on influencer channels and popular podcasts allow spokespeople to delve deeper into an announcement in a way that resonates and spreads awareness among priority audiences. These interviews also often have a longer shelf life than interviews aired live. MTV leveraged this strategy when it partnered with a team of influencers on Instagram TV, Instagram’s long-form video platform, to release its nominations for the Video Music Awards. The campaign reached over 22 million people in MTV’s target audience. As the media environment continues to move towards streaming, influencer channels and podcasts will increasingly play a role in consumer-facing announcements and campaigns to reach next generation audiences.
The communications industry is in the midst of disruption due to a series of challenges and pressure on organizations in a rapidly evolving technology landscape where the lines between marketing and communication are becoming increasingly blurry As the industry adapts to the rise of social media, branded content and a continually struggling media environment, new approaches will become increasingly central to achieving an organization’s communications goals.
While these new mediums and tactics may not make sense for all organizations or all announcements, getting creative with media strategies and experimenting with new innovations can enable companies to better reach journalists and connect meaningfully with customers and stakeholders.