Why Media Relations Matters in the New Dispensation (Pt 1)

Why Media Relations Matters in the New Dispensation (Pt 1)

Media relations is a critical aspect of Public Relations. There should be no confusion between the two. While PR is overarching, media relations refers to the management of relationships that an organisation has with a critical stakeholder, that is, the media. Though the two are used interchangeably, they are not the same.

It would be folly for an organisation not to treat its relationships with the media seriously. PR professionals recognise the fact that media is its bread and butter, a strategy that enables them to manage and maintain good and healthy relations with their media contacts.

Media acts as a go-between for an organisation and its target public. It creates awareness for the organisation to create a positive image, influence or behaviour from the chosen audience. In this way organisations build public support and acceptance through their outreach.

It remains critical to get coverage for the organisation, be it in print, online or electronic media. The journalists in various media platforms that PR executives deal with, enable reach to reach wider audiences. Not only is this cost effective, it is also an essential part of business practice in stakeholder management.

Magna Carta Reputation Management Consultants, and indeed other agencies, have put media relations at the top of their pitch to clients, particularly at time when the behaviour organisations, and individuals in them, are now subject to more intense scrutiny that ever.

The growth of social media and advances in information technology, have placed in the hands of ordinary people, the ability to transmit, share and broadcast their opinions to even wider audiences.

We are way past the time when traditional media ruled the roost.

“It (traditional media) owned newsgathering, it owned the stories and it owned news-hungry audiences, which was pretty much everybody. News brands and their journalists owned credibility and trust,” writes Marian Saltzman in her contribution to Forbes Magazine.

It had a monopoly and as a result, PR practitioners had little choice but rely on traditional media to share information. Hence the need to manage relations with this important channel of communication.

However, times have changed. The platforms have multiplied, the reach has grown, and more ominously, everyone and their grandmother can transmit news in real time from a gadget on their palms.

A narrow definition of the media has become a fatal prospect for any organisation that relies on a wide audience to push their products and services, and also to gain credibility and acceptance.

The 24-hour news cycle, the growth of citizen journalism, blogging and the emergence of independent ‘influencers’ has created a more complicated media landscape.

It’s an environment that requires a strategic approach, planning and tactics that will enable an organisation to have its voice and story heard above all the noise. Worse still, the days when an organisation becomes content with staying below the radar, totally unnoticed, are over.

Today’s customer is no longer just content with complaining about bad service or product to an organisation. They now have the option, and the satisfaction, of sharing their experiences via online platforms such as social media or blogs.

Whether an organisation likes it or not, they are under increased and constant scrutiny, and they have little or no control over what is said about them.

Saltzman correctly alludes to the fact that potential consumers are now far more influenced by people they trust, and that includes not only their friends, but also journalists and bloggers whose voices and opinions they trust.

Therefore, PR agencies that provide specialised media training solutions for business leaders and spokespeople become valuable. Such solutions are designed to meet the demands of the traditional and the new media landscape, equipping clients with the skills to control their corporate messaging and effectively position themselves and their organisations.

The organisation now desperately needs a skilled PRP that will realise that it’s time to grow their reach to media beyond the traditional.

In other words, writes Saltzman, “It’s time to grow the contact list, edit it, analyse it and annotate it: Who is media and who is an influencer? Who helps spread the news and who drives actual buying decisions?”

If the internal skills to deliver this are not there, then the PR agency becomes a natural choice.

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