We open our blog with a subject that’s one of the great classics – the Press Office.
This activity is such a central element in the PR world that it’s often spoken of in the same breath, as if PR and Press Office meant the same thing.
In industry jargon, the work of the Press Office involves the so-called “Earned media”, as opposed to the “Paid media”, which is the domain of advertising.
But what does “Earned media” mean? This expression describes all the opportunities for greater brand visibility generated by the media’s information and awareness-raising activities, supported only by our work, without financial investment.
I’m very happy to be associated with activity that creates value for clients, generates profits and is expressed as a benefit!
So far, so good.
But what does the Press Office actually do?
It may seem obvious, but maybe it’s not so straightforward. Even now we’re often asked to quantify an offer of collaboration simply on the basis of the number of press releases produced.
It’s a common misconception that this is how the Press Office works – we put together a press release with all the information we want to get across, whip up a blizzard with a journalist mailshot, and sometimes even some telephone recalls, then we sit back and await the prodigious harvest.
Described like this it seems like a routine operation repeated constantly to raise awareness on the desired topics.
If there ever was a time when things worked like this, when all we had to do was crank out a standard release and sort it – just like in a post office – nowadays all that is anachronistic and out of the question.
On the current media scenario, with a limited range of publications and journalists who are inundated with emails (which most treat as spam), juggling print, web and social media, do we really think a standard communication will be opened, let alone read? Very unlikely.
So, it’s worth lining up a few ideas to clarify our thoughts, resetting perceptions and debunking some myths about the modern-day Press Office.
1) News in search of a reader
Media publish news, they are interested in things happening now, they are driven by the need to attract their readers’ interest and attention.
The mission of PR professionals, then, is to transform the information companies want to communicate into news. In short, knowing how to turn it into news, without indulging into self-referential content distributed with a request for publication.
Recognising the central role of the media – and as a result the reader – sometimes means being ready to take a step backwards, putting ego to the side, in order to be featured in quality editorials.
2) Media rhythms
With the coming of the Internet, real time communications burn up news in just a few moments, published it on sites and reposting it on the social media. It’s clear, then, that it’s no longer enough to spread a standard release to an extended mailing list of sites, newspapers, weeklies, monthlies and so on.
Every medium has its rhythms and deadlines, and those working over longer periods, like weeklies and monthlies must inevitably offer their readers not so much breaking news in the strictest sense, but articles about trends and behaviour, points of view, analyses and exclusive features.
For greater visibility we have to plan in advance a tailored approach for each media that takes deadlines and priorities into account with clarity, skill and creativity.
3) Strategies and planning
Competition among the media is fierce. Appearing on one title often means giving up on others, so the choice of who to prioritise or provide privileged access to first must be determined by strategic concept based on audience and objectives.
As a result, being able to master all this is crucial for a modern Press Office to work efficiently and effectively.
Maximising the visibility of content means being able to integrate the right mix of traditional and digital media, combining authoritativeness with wide-ranging relevance, reputation and reach.
4) The right contacts – and more
Another widespread belief is that a PR agency’s effectiveness is directly proportional to its network of “friendly” journalists ready to publish on the basis of a privileged relationship.
It’s clear that, as in all sectors, personal relationships pay dividends. Not for demanding favours but to attract the attention being recognised as professionals and credible sources of content. A diary stuffed with the right names used to be the mark of a successful PR specialist, but nowadays a healthy contact list is just a good start.
5) Knowing how the media work
What makes the difference today is knowledge that is constantly updated by the complex media ecosystem. For example, what subjects a publication handles, how it is structured (the timetable for the relevant pages and inserts), who writes in it, and about what, what the production times are (a monthly works with a long-term vision, 3-4 months in advance of the publication date) and what are good or bad days to contact media (depending on publication deadlines and internal timetables). These are just a few things to take into account to achieve success as a modern PR professional.
Of course, it’s vital that you read the news every day! It’s also important to follow journalists on their social media profiles, which have themselves become news outlets and showcases for personal branding.
In this way we can target our content offer, responding to individual journalists’ specific interests and remaining abreast of trends.
6) All made to measure
Doing the work of a PR professional well now increasingly means offering a bespoke service, far removed from indiscriminately launching piles of emails to editorial offices. Now you have to interest a particular journalist or title with specially-designed content.
The old-school press release, once considered a basic element in all our activities, is dropping out of favour. It often becomes a sort of in-house work tool, a collection of key messages that can act as a starting point for constructing the so-called “media angles”, content expressed to reflect different angles to introduce brands, companies and products in an attractive way to each media.
7) Two-way communications
Few regard the Press Office as a two-way activity, but that is one of the most productive, satisfying aspects of our work – and that’s why these days we prefer to call it Media Relations. It doesn’t just mean producing and offering content to the media, it’s also, and above all, about encouraging flows of inbound opportunities.
I’m talking about the fact that every company/brand is an expert in the sector it operates in and/or the issues it involves. Good PR technique can make use of this precious knowledge, positioning the company as an authoritative source for journalists in the sector and encouraging them to use it for spontaneous consultation. This gives rise to collaborations and opportunities for visibility that create value for all concerned – the company provides opinions, information and comments, becoming a resource for journalists, one they can call on for articles or in-depth analyses. These virtuous dynamics are built over time, founded on respect, trust and a spirit of collaboration – that’s why those turning to a good Press Office can benefit from its credibility and authoritative position, making use of much more than clippings alone.
8) The value of endorsement
Last but not least, let’s consider the huge value of endorsements generated by a good Press Office. Paying for space to describe yourself (Paid media) or publishing your own content on your own channels (Owned media) are both important in modern communications, demanding great professionalism and special skills. But when others speak well of us (Endorsement), it’s a totally different story! Obtaining free, genuine visibility on the media – dailies, magazines, sites, radio and TV – enhances the company’s reputation and improves the image and positive perception of the brand among the target audience. Validation from third parties is priceless, it truly is “Earned media”!
So, we come to the end of this round-up of the work of a modern Press Office.
We’ve entered the world of PR, taking you behind the scenes to reveal crucial aspects of our profession, which deserves a much higher attention.
Media relations are a complex aspect of the PR business, where the best results are obtained through content, skill and above all capable management. Much more than simply sorting standardized press releases, as if we were a Post Office!