A PR Manager on Staying Ahead of the Media Game

Written by Joseph Pastrana

For those of us working in public relations, staying on top of media musical chairs has always been part of the job. But if you’re anything like me, this is a whole new level. With all the brutal budget cuts, department restructuring and print publications folding, editors are being let go, shuffled around, or announcing their own digital projects at a faster pace than ever before.

As the year opened, we heard about more rounds of layoffs after teams from various Conde Nast titles were consolidated into creative, copy and photo departments. Hearst eventually followed suit later in the year. This means that a single fashion editor is now likely to be in charge of multiple titles, each with their own readership and voice.

These seismic shifts within the publishing world have left us in a state of flux – trying to figure out how to work among the rubble.

At the end of the day, the most important thing to remember is giving your media contacts their due by valuing their support of your client’s and seriously considering both their needs and feedback. Strong media relationships will provide you with the inside scoop on what to pitch, how a specific title is structuring (or re-structuring) and new contacts. Beyond that, below are some helpful reminders to help you stay on top of your game.

Relax, there is still a place for print

While conventional perception right now is that print is dying a slow excruciating death, multiple sources suggest otherwise. Freeport Press found that survey responders indicated that we “read more, read longer and subscribe more often to print than digital.” Britt Fero, the executive vice president and head of strategy in the Seattle office of New York-based ad agency Publicis commented in an article for the American Marketing Association that, “People are in different mental spaces when they choose to engage with a printed magazine versus digital content. Magazines, and print in other forms, serve as inspiration, and they also can be informational. A lot of that is title-dependent and reader-mindset-dependent. What does the reader want to get out of those five minutes that he spends with that particular title? This is really where, in marketing, you can actually add value to a medium because the reader is looking for a very specific kind of content anyway, versus just talking about your brand. Print is becoming even harder, more competitive. It has to speak to the kind of content someone is really interested in.” All this is good news for PR professionals who know how to sculpt a compelling story.

Aside from the less reliable revenue generated by digital platforms, industry experts point to there being no title so far that has proven successful by converting over to digital-only, which means Self.com for example, bears close scrutiny if it does so (or not). What remains true is that print still retains a sense of prestige as a publicity get.

Print’s belated creation of online versions was a miscalculation that has and continues to cost publishers readership. While some clients prefer online hits, the smartest move would be to remain aggressive on a multi-media front, instead of specializing in one media format over another.

Stay the course with social

For every “hot” new social media app, five of them fade away into oblivion (stop trying to make Ello happen!). While it seems expedient to jump on every buzz-worthy new social media platform, recognize that rarely does the buzz equal any long range traction. Evaluate reach and functionality, as well as obvious client integration before heading down a rabbit hole. Clients will want the latest and greatest, so prepare your point-of-view statements and encourage a mix of testing and continual commitment to the chosen channels. At this instant Facebook Live is the thing to do. But better get on that now before the tide turns; because if there’s anything certain about the internet – it inevitably will.

Get ahead of sponsored content

Another core challenge for the modern, digitally savvy agency is the ascendance of social media stars – both with genuine, engaged followers and fake ones. This is yet another tricky situation to need to navigate and agencies should get ahead of the last-minute outreach shuffle to develop clear influencer guidelines and policies, educating the client the entire way through. Develop a clear game plan for evaluation, taking into consideration popularity, reach, effectiveness, proper disclosure, editorial opportunities and P2P budget requirements.

If you always keep an ear to the ground and your eyes open, you will be better equipped to deal with the changes in media. Remember you work in communications – it’s just as much about having something to say and how to say it as it is knowing when to listen.

About Joseph Pastrana

Joseph Pastrana is a New York-based public relations accounts manager with Mannfolk PR. He has worked on both corporate and commercial accounts, in fashion, beauty, interior design and other lifestyle industries. He continues to help clients shape their branding and create effective campaigns for all media.