The last few weeks we’ve watched friends, families and colleagues struggle in Texas and Florida with two of the biggest hurricanes to ever make landfall in the U.S.
We’ve also watched a number of brands make the same mistake we’ve been watching brands make for years–attempting to “capitalize” on a horrible situation that literally involves life-or-death scenarios.
Most of those have been fairly obvious. But what about the brands that are truly doing great things to help? What about the brands that are donating millions to the recovery efforts? What about the brands that have truly unique and interesting stories to tell about how they’re helping in this areas?
Should those brands be promoting these stories and efforts?
That’s a different scenario.
But, I’m not so sure the answer isn’t the same as the answer to the scenario mentioned above.
And that answer is: “Don’t do it.”
Here’s the scenario I imagine played out across the U.S. the last few weeks. Many companies are dealing with this.
Scenario #1: Company A makes a major donation to the Red Cross in an effort to help citizens (including customers) in the Houston area. Company A’s CEO approaches the PR team asking, “Why aren’t we promoting this on social media?”
Scenario #2: Company B is taking great strides to make sure employees in the Naples and Fort Myers areas are supported in the recovery efforts. They’ve gone to extraordinary lengths, and they have some fantastic, heart-warming stories, as a result. The COO of the company is asking the PR team, “Why aren’t we leveraging these stories in the media? Don’t they eat this kind of stuff up?”
Either of these sound familiar? I bet they do. Maybe not this week, or last week, but I bet you’ve run into something similar if you’ve worked in PR for any length of time.
What’s the best answer?
In both the instances above, the best approach is to resist the urge to go down this road. There are a couple reasons why: 1) Huge noise–and, worthwhile noise, I might add. Hundreds of thousands of people are trying to get their lives back in order right now. That’s the priority–not your brand. 2) Blowback could be big. Risk management 101. What are the chances of huge blowback against your brand online? Depending on the story or the news hole, pretty decent, I’d say.
Now, this doesn’t mean you can’t share these stories and talk about your efforts internally with employees. In fact, they’re an absolute key audience in these situations.
But sharing externally? That’s a different situation. And one you should wade into very carefully.
As a wise friend said to me recently: “Not every situation needs to be capitalized on.”
Couldn’t agree more.
Each week, I put together and distribute The Talking Points e-newsletter (sign up here). It’s full of stories and articles designed to help people like YOU do your job’s just a little bit better. And, it’s also full of jobs I think would be interesting to readers.
My process for identifying and curating those jobs isn’t all that complex, or difficult, for that matter. But, there is a process behind it–and resources I use on a consistent basis. And, since many of you will most likely be searching for a job in the next 2-3 years (stats prove it out, folks!), I thought I would share those resources today and how I use them. It total, I use seven different online resources when finding those job posting each week:
The longest-running PR blog in Minnesota–and, truth be told, one of the longest-running PR blogs in the entire country. Kudos to Ryan May for creating this resource so many of us use on a weekly basis. I don’t pull every job from this blog, but I definitely check it each week.
More focused on internships and beginner-level positions, but definitely a resource I look at each week. Tends to include more positions at mid-sized orgs, media enterprises and non-profits, but still worth checking. In particular, I look under “Communications-Public Relations”, “Advertising” and “Marketing and Brand/Product Management”.
Typically doesn’t have a ton of listings, and they do tend to overlap with the MN PR Blog, but worth a quick glance each week.
As you’ll see, I use LinkedIn in a dual-purpose when searching for jobs. In this case, I’m clicking on the “jobs” tab at the top of the page. Then, I’m typically searching for “public relations” and “social media” positions in Minneapolis. Over the last couple years, that typically brings up a decent amount of jobs each week. You’d be surprised.
The other way I use LinkedIn is to peruse my feed 2-3 times per day for people posting about local jobs here in Minneapolis/St. Paul. This usually yields 2-3 jobs a week–these are positions my friends, colleagues, clients and former clients are posting. And, these are typically the kinds of jobs that aren’t posted to some of the other resources listed here. I usually click through to the jobs and bookmark the sites (using Feedly and my friendly Feedly bookmarklet) for reference later.
This site was one of my biggest sources of jobs up until a few months ago when they redesigned the site. Now, it seems a little tougher to uncover jobs the way I did before. Regardless, a great site to visit weekly.
More focused on ad-related jobs, but I still check it each week.
Now THAT’S a headline, right? Sure, it might seem a little bombastic.
But, it’s actually rooted in a number of facts. And that’s exactly what I want to talk about today.
You see, it seems to me we’re at a bit of a crossroads. On one hand, I see a lot of people still working in an environment similar to 2001. Mainstream media still dominated the landscape. Smart phones weren’t even a thing yet. And Facebook wasn’t even a thought in Zuck’s mind.
On the other hand, I see a lot of other people working in the new paradigm. Where audience reach seems to be more fragmented by the day. Where no platform or media dominates. And where adoption of new approaches and technologies is the norm.
But make no mistake about it, these are two separate realities. And they’re miles apart.
And, it’s mostly predicated on the belief, and expectation, quite frankly, that the mainstream media will always be numero uno in the PR/marketing game.
Sure, mainstream media still have huge reach today. The New York Times still matters. People still watch NBC News (although fewer than did 10 years ago).
But, look how much has changed in 10 years (keep in mind, in 2007, the iPhone was invented).
How much will change in the NEXT 10 years?
A whole lot, methinks.
In fact, my prediction: 50% of all media relations jobs will be eliminated in 10 years.
Consider the facts:
- FACT: Mainstream media reach continues to wane.
- SUPPORT: A Pew Research Center study claims that total weekday circulation for U.S. daily newspapers (print and digital) fell 8% in 2016–the 28th consecutive year of declines.
- FACT: Local media continues to struggle as well.
- SUPPORT: Viewership for early morning (down 12%), evening (down 19%) and late night news broadcasts (down 31%) have all fell since 2007.
- FACT: Millennials have a more negative view of mainstream media.
- SUPPORT: Just 27 percent of millennials say mainstream media has a positive impact on them, down from 40 percent just 7 years ago.
- FACT: The way in which Millennials consume news is increasingly fragmented
- SUPPORT: According to a study by the American Press Institute, 88% of millennials get news from Facebook each day, but 83% get news from YouTube and 50% get it from Instagram as well.
So, mainstream media reach continues to suffer, local news is still diving, and millennials think less of news than they did just seven years ago and consume their news is MUCH different ways than most of us do/have.
Translation: Media relations will not be the cornerstone of comms and PR departments like it once was–in some organizations, this is already changing.
And while it might not be a “fact”, here’s one more important point to consider: In the current state, Boomers and Gen Xers serve in leadership positions (for the most part) within large agencies and large companies. They are the ones dictating terms. Budgets. Direction. Strategy.
What kind of media did those people grow up with? What kind of media are they most comfortable with?
You guessed it. NBC News. New York Times. The 10 pm local news.
Now think 10 years forward. The very youngest Boomers will be 61–the oldest will be 79 years old. The youngest Gen Xers will be 47–the oldest 62. This means, most of these folks will be moving into retirement, or taking a step back at the very least.
Meanwhile, Millennials will be moving into decision-making roles. They’ll be in the prime of their careers–ages 30-46.
What does this mean? It means Millennials will approach things a LOT differently than their Xer and Boomer counterparts. And, I’m not sure media relations will play the primary role with them that it does with the Boomers and Xers. It’s just not what they grew up with, or what they experienced. And, I can’t even begin to imagine how the yet-to-be-named generation (my kids–ages 0-13 now) will be consuming media in 10 years.
Make no mistake: Leadership is a big reason why many companies and agencies continue to pursue media relations as a discipline. And that’s fine…for now. But 10 years from now? I think we’ll see half the media relations jobs we see now.
So, what’s the result of the market losing 50% of these jobs? I think you’ll see more content-focused positions–in fact, you’re already seeing that. You’ll see more jobs where media relations is just one piece of the job (and a smaller one, at that). You’ll see more generalist roles vs. media-specific roles.
To be clear, I’m not saying media relations is dying, or is dead. Far from it. But, I do think the day and age of jobs solely dedicated to it is coming to an end–quickly. All signals point that way for now.
On the media side, some see it as the savior of their business.
On the PR side, it could be seen as a major hurdle.
Because here’s the scenario that’s playing out increasingly with PR folks: You secure a great story in The Washington Post. Your client is excited. You’re pumped because, well, it’s The Washington Post for crying out loud.
The placement hits. You share it on social media. You share the URL with your client.
But, you start getting comments on the Facebook post about people not being able to read the article.
Your client sends you a note quickly saying she can’t get to it either.
Enter the world of the paywall.
It’s great for the media (and I’m not saying media shouldn’t be using this model as a revenue source–believe me, I’ve been a subscriber of the Star Tribune for 4 years now). Not so great for PR.
Based on the social sharing and online-driven world we now live in, online PR placements are more valuable in many ways than the print version. But, if there’s a paywall, that’s all negated.
No sharing on social media–you’ll just frustrate your readers/followers.
No sharing with the client–you’ll just light a fire under them.
No sharing in client e-newsletters–you’ll upset your current and prospective customers.
My question for you all today is simply this: Is this a legit concern for our business?
Are there really enough newspapers with paywalls to make this a legitimate issue? WaPo has one. And, according to one study, more than 80 percent of all newspapers with a circ of more than 500,000 have one (wow). And, certain industry pubs have adopted the model (I couldn’t find a comprehensive list anywhere, to my chagrin).
Will paywalls become more common as a revenue source, or will they recede as newspapers and media outlets continue to experiment with and change their business models (Nielson thinks so)?
And, what does this mean for us as PRs? If paywalls do rise in prominence, does that impact our approach in using media relations as a part of our toolkit? I sure think it would.
It’s an interesting discussion. I’m curious to hear what you have to say.
If there was one “trend” that emerged in 2016 that should scare the bejesus out of PR counselors it’s this: Fake news.
We’ve all read about the phenomenon by now and its impact on the 2016 election. But, what you may not have given as much thought to is fake news’ potential impact on your company, its executives and your organization’s reputation.
Again–bejesus. Scared out of you.
Why? Because this is something that’s completely out of our control and sphere of influence.
And, it’s already happening. Just as Pepsi and CEO, Indra Nooyi.
But, isn’t this just an election thing?
No, according to many. Including, long-time blogger, podcaster and counselor, Shel Holtz:
“But let’s be realistic. Efforts by Facebook, Google, and others to stifle fake news will fail. This genie is out of the bottle. Now that people know fake news produces real outcomes, they will find ways around the blocks, just as spammers and hackers who deploy computer viruses have.”
Sufficiently scared yet?
You should be.
But, I believe there are steps you can take to (at least try to) protect your corporate reputation against fake news villains. If I were a director of corporate communications at a Fortune 500 company, I’d be considering the following approaches:
Start managing expectations with execs now (before the fake news hits)
Most likely the most important item on this list. Why? Because most execs really have no clue about the details of fake news. In fact, the likely response you’d get from a CEO if defamatory fake news were to emerge against him/her would be: “Just take it down!” Am I right? I’d suggest getting ahead of this by having the conversations now with your executives before the crisis situation presents itself. Explain what fakes news is, how it works, and what steps you can and cannot take to combat it.
Be prepared to ride it out (like social attacks)
The fake news phenomenon feels eerily similar to what we see when political groups attack social brand pages. I’ve been a part of one of these attacks before on the brand side–it’s not pretty. Political organizations rally their troupes to encourage followers to post on Facebook walls and to tweet at companies they have their sights on. The result is an endless flurry of negative posts that the brand cannot possibly keep up with. And, the resulting action brands typically take is the only smart one: Nothing. Responding once (or minimal times) and riding it out, appears to be the standard operating procedure. And, I think that same approach (responding minimally) will probably apply here, too. Think about the environment–a fake news source that cannot be influenced. People who will believe what they want to believe. And, a social media ecosystem designed to encourage the sharing of said message. Riding it out seems like the only option, really.
Be ready to move quickly with employee communication channels
That said, I think you can take a few steps to mitigate the damage–especially with one audience you can communicate with effectively: Your employees. Being able to react QUICKLY to fake news becomes paramount. Make sure your team and processes are up to the test.
Be ready to rely on relationships with key journalists
Not so much to push a story, necessarily. But, to serve as a resource to provide factual information–something we appear to be in short supply of these days.
Be ready to use executive LinkedIn profiles
Another channel that affords you the opportunity to speak straight from the horse’s mouth: Executive LinkedIn profiles. I’ve been a huge advocate of LinkedIn Publishing as a channel for the last few years. Great way to connect with employees, vendors, prospective employees and customers in a way very few other channels provide (mostly, the authenticity angle). No different here.
Be ready to use paid dollars to ensure your message is seen via social.
Seems counter-intuitive from a PR perspective, but most social channels are now full pay-for-play. Here’s the trick with this approach, however. You’re never going to counteract ALL the fake news. Most fake news is being shared in circles that your company, its employees and customers don’t necessarily interact in. But, sometimes it’s about optics. And, in this case, at least trying to counteract the fake news counts for a lot–with executives, with employees and with customers.