Being the media

Last night I spoke at the Leadership Institute‘s Public Relations School on writing effective press releases.  It’s a talk I’ve been giving since 2002, but since then it has obviously changed pretty considerably.

The most significant change has been in the forms a press release has taken.  Eight years ago a basic press release was a one-page document written like a news story that was emailed and faxed to a media list, or distributed through a press release service.  Today, through formats like social media releases, plus tools like easy blogging and media hosting platforms (like Flickr and YouTube), organizations and campaigns can augment their news releases with all kinds of extras.

And frankly, if they aren’t doing that, they’re missing out.

The media landscape has changed, too.  Bloggers and power social network users can reach thousands of people.  There’s no reason to wait for traditional media outlets to create content that can be picked up virally.  The Washington Times mentioned how this helped insurgent candidates circumvent the media in upsetting candidates hand-picked by political parties:

Just as important, platforms such as YouTube have given long-shot candidates ways to circumvent political reporters reluctant to cover campaigns they don’t believe have much chance of success…Most prominent is Florida, where former House Speaker Marco Rubio, a darling of the “tea party” movement, had nearly 20 times the video views in late May as Gov. Charlie Crist, whom Republican leaders had recruited into the race. Mr. Crist has since fled the Republican Party to run as an independent.

One key element of public relations hasn’t changed, of course: the importance of having a strong, well-framed message.  If a tree falls in the forest, and no one’s around to tweet about it, it won’t make the front page – but the tree has to fall first.

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