Engaging the Media in 2017

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There is little doubt that the past year has been tumultuous for the news media. Challenges such as fake news scandals and ongoing budget cuts to newsrooms have plagued media outlets throughout the country – with even publications like the Wall Street Journal affected. Public trust in the news media has also fallen.

Yet, the rise of digital-first news and advertising has brought fresh opportunities. Social media has eroded many barriers – making ordinary citizens reporters in their own right. There is also a relentless need for immediate and trustworthy content to feed digital newsrooms. At a time when the news media are moving at a breakneck pace, it can be tricky for organizations and brands to navigate and break through the noise.

There are clear strategies that organizations must follow to find success in this climate. What follows are some observations from my work in the media relations field, coupled with some fresh data and insights shared in Cision’s 2017 “State of the Media” survey, white paper and recent panel discussion.

First, know the trends.

Making an impact starts with understanding the media landscape and responding to relevant trends, without compromising an organization’s core values and mission.

Today, organizations and brands are increasingly personified – and in a reversal of past trends, they are even better trusted than journalists or the government.

The State of the Media survey found “corporate brands are more trusted today than the government or the media”. 

A brand’s personality takes on significant meaning for customers. That means customers are paying attention to not only its corporate Facebook page and products but also its CEO’s political donations and how the company responds to a crisis on social media. It’s important to think of your organization in this lens. Knowing how your brand is personified will help you gain your customer’s trust, confidence, and loyalty.

Second, forge the relationships.

When it comes down to it, communications and public relations are still about relationships. That’s why reporters value PR professionals who are familiar with their interests, their publication, and their audience.

Fifty-one percent of journalists and influencers who responded to the “State of Media” survey said they pursue a story because the communicator “displayed knowledge of your part work, interests and strengths”. 

As a PR professional, that means that reading journalist’s stories, understanding their interests, following their Twitter feeds and researching their audience is time well spent. Once rapport is established, journalists feel they can rely on a PR professional to provide feedback or provide a source for a story on a short deadline – which strengthens the relationship for all parties involved.

Third, integrate new strategies.

In this digital-first world, it is unwise to treat digital and social media as secondary. Instead, organizations should work to integrate communication efforts across all mediums.

In fact, the State of the Media survey found that “Facebook has become the leading audience engagement tool.” Journalists also believe that Twitter has the greatest opportunity for future growth.

Other trends in the report are the growth of mobile readership and a growing demand for video and image-based content. Blending traditional earned media with strong social media and influencer campaigns is the best way for brands to ensure they are reaching their targeted audiences. But, as any savvy social strategist can tell you, you can’t just think of digital media as an electronic billboard. Rather, you must tell a meaningful story that aims to engage rather than speaking at your audience.

Finally, be genuine and tell a powerful story.

The good news is that journalists, influencers, and audiences still place a high value on genuineness.

The truth remains that while executing a media strategy, organizations must continue to stay true to their cores and put authenticity first. That means emphasizing quality and targeted strategies over a large-scale blitz.

The State of the Media survey found that “more than ever, journalists and influencers value accuracy over speed,” with 92 percent of journalists saying being right is more important than being first

Increasingly, journalists also yearn to connect their story to the larger picture. Anyone who saw the 2017 Superbowl commercials can attest to the importance of brands speaking to our common values and shared humanity – a trend that was even spoofed on Saturday Night Live. Organizations and brands must share a compelling story of what their value is and who they are creating that value for.