Without Media Relations, Is It Really PR?

August 21, 2014

This post by Geoff Livingston caught my eye this week:

PR Cannot Escape Media Relations. In this post, Livingston talks about the inescapable connection between PR and media outreach and how some in the PR profession struggle with this.

This struck such a chord with me, because I, too, came to a point in my PR career when I was really resistant to continue doing media relations. I struggled with this—I’d really rather just write, I told a few trusted  PR-savvy colleagues. “Well, then, is that still PR?” some of them replied.

So, I took some time to think. When I looked closer at the needs of my clients, I began to realize what an integral part of PR media relations is. What did my clients really want, in many cases? Media coverage. And why? Because media coverage:

  • Adds to a company’s credibility
  • Raises visibility
  • Paves the way for your sales force
  • Is shareable
  • May be repurposed
  • Feeds content marketing

When you think about all that media coverage can do for a company, it makes sense that businesses are looking to include media outreach in their PR efforts.  

So, instead of distancing myself from media relations, instead I embraced it. And what have I found over the years since? This has become a differentiator for me. I don’t how many PR pros I’ve met who say, “Oh, I don’t really do media relations.” Then, how can you call yourself a PR practitioner, I would ask. As Livingston mentioned, “You can run, but you can’t hide” from media relations.

Further, I get the impression that some PR practitioners tend to look down at media relations—almost as if it’s something beneath them. This was what I encountered when I worked at an agency, as well. The “smile and dial” approach was often used, which is probably why people didn’t enjoy doing it. And, it would be assigned to the most junior person on the team…further demeaning it and its value to the client. If this is the most important thing to the client, why would you look down on it and assign to a junior team member? If it’s so important, as Livingston points out, wouldn’t you want to assign to someone who has some experience and even skill doing it?

“I believe a media relations pro or agency that can open those doors and facilitate that story breakthrough is even more valuable today than ever before,” writes Livingston. “Practicing public relations without media relations is much like playing the lottery. Assuming the media will stumble upon your business story may as well be a raffle, one that loses probability every year.”

As long as media relations provides value to clients, it will continue to be a vital part of PR. “PR pros who no longer want to offer media relations could position their service offering a little differently. They can clearly offer marketing communications services, or social media marketing or simply content,” Livingston continues. I like this line of reasoning. And they can leave the media relations to those of us who understand its value and truly embrace it.  

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2 responses to “Without Media Relations, Is It Really PR?”

  1. Steve Schick says:

    While I believe that PR without media relations is a bit like getting all dressed up and having nowhere to go, there is a purpose and value to PR without the media component. The model of creating press tools to help or influence journalists to write about a company/product is obviously much broader than it was before the predominance of the online world. Companies can simultaneously “self publish” as well as pursue the traditional media approach. Media still carries greater credibility and, most likely, reach. Still, there are cases where even PR without media relations makes sense. As the article points out, PR may be a critical element to legitimize an announcement (let’s say a new product) and will serve as a important tool to customers, prospects, partners, analysts and even employees. PR may invest a good deal of work to create the release even knowing that they will not pursue any media relations in support of it. In addition, the very act of creating a press release may serve as the internal forcing function to determine exact messaging and positioning within the economy of the release parameters (headlines and subs can only be so long, and they have to be substantiated in the body).

    In today’s world, PR remains as critical as ever. Media relations plays a close second.

  2. Hi Steve! What a nice surprise to see you posting on here! Thank you so much for your comments–you make some great points. I guess I just tire of PR pros who say they don’t do media relations…always makes me do a double take! To me, the two are inextricably intertwined.

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