The value (or otherwise) of media relations


My good friend Mr Waddington at Rainier has been bemoaning PRs who still see print coverage as the primary goal of their work.

He says: "This reality, alas, hasn’t sunk into the UK PR
industry yet, which still regards hard copy coverage as delivering the
best value to clients when in reality web hits and increased search
engine optimisation (SEO) is the way forward. It’s the same old issue; the PR industry needs an effective model to prove return on investment."

I’m in general agreement with Stephen on this – and would add the following:

1. Why do PR agencies  continue to churn out so many press releases? (And waste client’s money?)

In his recent book on PR in the UK, leading business journalist Peter Bartram noted that in 2006, a sample of 89 UK tech and business journalists received on average more than 19,100 press releases a week. Put another way, 993,200 per year. According to Bartram, “the vast bulk of these releases, say the journalists concerned, are either irrelevant to their interests or contain no discernible story.”  In short, a huge amount of time, resource and effort is being devoted to writing and distributing press releases that have no impact whatsoever.

Couple this with:

2. Print Media Environment

Fewer tech titles + Fewer journalists + Fewer editorial pages
Fewer opportunities for coverage + Lowering circulations + Fewer readers = not a happy picture.

And do these dwindling band of print readers actually read the magazines they receive? Having talked to numerous senior IT directors in recent months, the general consensus appears to be a resounding NO. Reasons range from lack of time to a sense that there is no really actionable information to be gained by reading the trad IT pubs.

So is online the panacea? Not necessarily. As per previous postings on print vs online, readerships figures for both seem to be similiar – or indeed in favour of print.

Which does suggest that it is media relations generally – whether targetting print or online – that needs examining in terms of its value to the client.

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Comments

  1. You’re absolutely spot-on – PR activity should be based on value to the client.
    But in the online world, value is not simply measured by ‘readership’.
    Put simply, traditional PR has the capacity to influence people. Whereas online PR can influence people, direct them to client websites and boost client search rankings. Online PR gives you three bangs for your buck. See http://www.dwpubsporadic.com/2007/08/online-pr-and-s.html

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  2. I think the issue of irrelevant press releases is one which needs to be tackled. I was judging some PR award entries recently and the number of releases issued over a 12-month period was often highlighted as a key measurement and output of the campaign! Unsurprisingly sending out over ten releases a month seemed to result in little or no meaningful coverage.

    In my experience the notion that the more releases issued the better the campaign and the better the media coverage is one which is often held at board level. Many in-house PR and marketing managers who should know better continue to get their agencies to churn out releases to keep their ill informed and out of date superiors happy. As has been pointed out any meaningful measurement framework for PR has to be in-depth and multi-facetted but the metric of releases issued is one which is just easier to put before the money men when reviewing the PR budget.

    For the agency it’s also an easy ride – it takes a strong one to say enough is enough. Yes, in most cases it’s a complete waste of money but for lazy clients and lazy agencies it remains a state of affairs too comfortable to challenge.

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