A couple weeks ago, I made a post on LinkedIn lamenting that the media relations game has gotten a lot harder over the last few years. The stats I’ve seen lately appear to back it up.
- Most top-tier reporters receive 100, 250 or 500 pitches a week for an average of 5 story spots (Fractl).
- PR pros now outnumber journalists 6 to 1. And jobs for PR pros is expected to surge another 9% by 2026 (Dept of Labor).
- 68% of PR professionals actually said media relations was getting “harder” or “much harder” in 2019. Up 17% from 2018 when 51% said media relations was getting harder (2019 JOTW Comms Survey).
I got a mixed reaction from friends and colleagues. Many agreed with that sentiment, saying their PR jobs are much tougher than they were just a few years ago.
Others claimed doubling down on relationships and tailored pitching was the key to success (no argument here!).
But, a few of those folks had a different kind of comment. One I found very interesting.
Essentially: “This is why I got out of PR and into marketing.”
Case in point, this comment from Melanie Pikosky, marketing director of Columbus Vegetable Oils.
Or, both of these comments from Jen Keavy, director of marketing at the MN Orchestra and Michelle Peterson, content strategist at Br8kthru Consulting.
The sentiment seems to be, “the media relations game drove me out of PR.”
Can you blame them?
The stats above paint the picture. And, while many in the comments of my LinkedIn post tried to defend media relations, I definitely didn’t hear any “PR is way easier than it used to be” or “PR is so much fun–I love my job!”
PR has always been a stressful field. But, media relations, if done well and the right way, has always been one of the more enjoyable and rewarding parts of the job, too.
Now, that’s tougher than ever. And, PR people are feeling the pinch.
Some are turning to marketing.
Some are turning to content roles.
Others are turning to social and digital paths.
But, I’m starting to hear a common refrain: PR is burning me out. I want a job that’s less stressful and more planful.
Maybe it’s just me. What are you hearing from friends and colleagues? What about YOU? Are you burning out on PR?
TikTok is having a bit of a moment.
Allow me to share some stats that back up that statement:
- TikTok now has more than 500M active users worldwide, ahead of Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat and Pinterest.
- TikTok was the third most downloaded app in Q1 of 2019
- TikTok was the most downloadable app in the Apple App Store in Q1 2019–ahead of YouTube and Insta.
However, despite TikTok’s immense success the last year or so, we haven’t seen brands adopt TikTok anywhere close to “en masse” just yet. Instead, we’ve seen very few brand case studies so far.
This isn’t surprising considering the following factors:
- Brand social teams are already taxed. I mean, how much more can we lob on their plates? None of the existing work is going anywhere and now you’re asking them to add an entirely new platform that’s reliant on uber-creative ideas + video to make an impact? Good luck.
- TikTok isn’t quite as user-friendly as the Facebooks and Twitters of the world. I’m not saying it’s impossible to figure out, but it’s also not super easy either. I think this plays into what we’re seeing so far.
- Most still see TikTok as something 12-year-old girls are doing. Which, is true–to an extent. Yes, younger girls are power users. But, so are 21-30-year old girls. And, we’re starting to see people and groups we weren’t seeing a year ago on TikTok. Just take a peek at this example below–this @35Rocket account is a older, male welder with more than 18,000 followers and 146,000 likes on TikTok!
So, brands aren’t engaging quite yet. There is some fear. There are some resourcing challenges. But, I also think there are some easy ways to dip your toe in the TikTok pond–just to get a feel for what it’s all about.
I might recommend trying out one of the following four ideas to get your start on TikTok:
- Engage employees in one of TikTok’s monthly hash tag challenge. For example, could you engage employees in producing short videos using the #weready hash tag in Sept.–part of TikTok’s partnership with the NFL? According to the official description: “Show us how hyped you are for kickoff, whether you’re repping your favorite team’s jersey, living that tailgate life or putting the final touches on your fantasy team.” For reference, this hash tag already has 574,500 views.
- Have fun producing videos around national days related to your brand. In the case of Chipotle, they had fun with National Avacado Day and this short video playing off The Guacamole Song.
- Feature employee behind-the-scenes-type content to promote Employer Brands. Give prospective employees a glimpse into your culture by showcasing the ins and outs of what it’s like to work for your company–but, in a fun way! This won’t work for every brand, of course, but I would argue most brands could stand to have a little more fun on platforms like TikTok.
Natty Light’s Catalina Wine Mixer scores A+ for creativity (but not sure what’s going on with execution)
In early August, Natty Light introduced a new entry to the hard seltzer game: the Catalina Lime Mixer.
Or, in other words, the best named hard seltzer beverage in all of history (you’ll know why if you Google “Catalina Wine Mixer”–simply brilliant).
The product is in direct competition with the most popular thing going: White Claws.
In fact, you may have seen this snarky video about White Claws earlier this year (side note: EVERY student in my class noted that they had already seen this video over the summer):
Here’s why I share this video (outside of the few laughs I hope you got out of it): The Claw sent a cease-and-decist letter to Mr. Wallace after this video. Essentially, giving him the full stiff arm.
Strange reaction, right? In 2019, you are much more likely to see a brand like White Claw embrace this video and sign up Wallace as a paid influencer to endorse the product. Instead, they told him to piss off.
And, Anheuser-Busch was right there to snatch him up.
When they did, they asked him to hop on a helicopter to attend the Catalina Wine Mixer (again, look it up) event they had planned on this yacht.
This was, by the accounts I’ve read so far, a big launch event for AB/Natty Light. A huge party aboard a luxury yacht. A big-time influencer showing up on a chopper. A boatload of influencers attending (check out the list on the Insta post). It has all the makings of a brilliant PR stunt-type idea. The type of stunt that should work well in the age of the influencer.
Except here’s the thing: I don’t see any influencers posting about it.
So, A+ for ideation, but maybe D- for execution?
We don’t know the whole story, obviously. That’s the tough part about evaluating these campaigns from afar. But, from what we can see, they seem to be missing a number of big components:
- More influencer posts. So they invite a long list of influencers to an awesome party on a huge yacht off the coast of California and no one is posting about it? Doesn’t that seem just a bit odd? Maybe there are bigger plans in the works. Maybe they plan to use content from the party in a TV ad coming up? Who knows. But, for now, not getting any influencer-generated content out of this event feels like a big miss.
- More social content. From what I can tell, Natty Light has only made that one Insta post and one Facebook post featuring the party. How is that even possible? You spend (most likely) tens of thousands of dollars to throw this lavish party. Most likely (again, guessing) pay a bunch of influencers tons of money to show up at this event and you…don’t document it at all? Seems odd, even though with liquor involved I’m sure there are laws and things they can’t do. With all that effort and money, you gotta get more out of it than a couple social media posts.
- Much more from Wallace. I would have doubled-down on Wallace content. And, maybe they will. The partnership is probably just getting started. But, this guy has an audience. And, he gets the humor around the product. I’d leverage that–while they can.
ICYMI, Kris Lindahl is taking over. The (overly) popular real estate mogul has been seen on bus sides, billboards and even in the sky (over Allianz Field and Target Field recently) via his airplane giveaways.
Kris Lindahl is everywhere.
And it’s pissing off the internet.
God dammit. pic.twitter.com/4cuVj9tcwq
— kyle matteson (@solace) August 18, 2019
Kyle is hardly alone. These kinds of tweets and posts on social are prevalent every day.
Why are you here! I’m so sick of seeing you! & it looks like I’m not the only one. 👊 to the forehead! pic.twitter.com/I5LV3kl94A
— Gypsy Kreashen (@Kreashen) September 7, 2019
So, after seeing this kind of blowback for the last few months, I started wondering: Why does everyone hate this guy? I mean, I get the over-exposure thing, but he’s a guy running a business, right? He’s trying to sell homes. He’s trying to make a living. And, the marketing approach he’s taking seems to be working, from what I’ve heard and read.
So again, why all the hate?
City Pages recently ran an article discussing just that. Fun read, if you have the time.
But, as I started researching Kris Lindahl for myself (I used him/his company as a case study in my class at the University of St. Thomas last week), something weird happened:
I found myself liking him.
And, standing up for him.
Because I think a lot of what he’s doing is actually pretty smart (waits patiently for eggs to be throw through computer screen at me!).
Now, I understand a lot of people dislike the guy for being over-exposed. Believe me, I have people I dislike for the same reason.
But, you can despise the guy, but I think you have to respect him from a business POV. Here’s four reasons why:
1: He gives back–a lot.
One quick glimpse at his social media feeds and you can see quite cleary that Kris is all about giving back. He has an entire campaign devoted to it: #BeGenerous. Posts like this are common on his Facebook page:
Or, what about this story of a guy who set up a GoFundMe page to create a parody of Lindahl’s billboards? Lindahl not only had fun with acknowledging the billboard, he donated $1,250 to People Serving People on the parody makers behalf! And sure, there’s a business benefit to this campaign and his work to give back. But, he makes a point to be out in front of it, actually DOING the giving back in almost every instance. Now, you could say that’s a guy who’s making it all about himself. And, you might be right. But, he doesn’t have to do this. And, he is making a difference (which is more than I can say for most of us). Plus, do we really have to be outraged about EVERYTHING? I mean, here’s a guy giving back to his community on the regular and we still find ways to hate him? In today’s day and age, I think Lindahl is actually worth celebrating.
2: He’s all about filling the funnel
At the end of the day, this is all about buying and selling homes. Period. If he does that well, he’s going to make a lot of money and be quite successful. In order to do that, like any good real estate agent will tell you, he needs brand awareness. Isn’t that what all the bus sides, billboards and blimps are all about? Let me put it another way: Do you know the first and last names of any other real estate agents in town?
3: He’s a founder/executive who’s personal
Tweets like this are fairly common in his feed:
It was really nice to have a conversation with you! 🙂
— Kris Lindahl (@krislindahl) September 7, 2019
How many founders, CEOs and other president-types do you see responding to tweets like this online in 2019? Not too many is the correct answer. Believe me, I try to convince C-level folks to spend more time online for a living. This is rare. And again, should be celebrated–not vilified.
4: He doesn’t take himself too seriously
I mean, would any exec or founder you know do this?
— Kris Lindahl (@krislindahl) July 18, 2019
Again, the correct answer is a resounding “No.” This guy clearly is OK poking fun at himself. Heck, a big part of the City Pages story is all about poking fun at himself and not taking this whole thing so seriously. And, big surprise, it’s working.
So, spare me the internet outrage for a moment. Check out what the guy is actually doing instead of making quick-twitch hot takes based on a bus-side you saw for the 45th time. So the guy advertises a lot? Big deal. So does Wells Fargo and you’re still banking with those thieves! 🙂 In all seriousness, here’s a guy who’s personal, seems to be genuine and gives back freely of his time and money. In all honesty, the world could probably use a lot more Kris Lindahl’s right now.
Thinking back to the early days in my career, clients often had one request when it came to the media relations game: I want to be on Oprah.
Or, The Today Show.
Or, in The New York Times.
Those were the kinds of media outlets clients wanted to be in. Mainstream media outlets with monstrous, loyal followings.
Fast forward to 2019, and I keep hearing similar conversations.
I want to be in Forbes.
I want to be in the Wall Street Journal.
I want to be on The Today Show!
Meanwhile, as we all know, mainstream media consumption numbers are down. Way down. In fact, time spent with newspapers is now down to 11 minutes a day (while time with digital sits at 6 hours and 35 minutes).
So, why the continued, extra attention on these big MSM outlets? I believe a lot of it has to do with who’s running the show (still, the Boomers). And, those people are still highly connected to MSM outlets like the ones mentioned above (they’re largely the primary consumers!).
But, at at the same time, some new, up-and-coming and largely unheralded media outlets have emerged that should be getting big-time attention, but just don’t seem to be getting the respect they deserve.
I’m talking about NextGen media outlets like Cheddar, Axios and Vice.
For those not familiar (not sure how this is possible), Cheddar is a “post-cable news, media, and entertainment company that broadcasts live on SlingTV, Hulu Live, YouTube TV, Philo, Twitter, Facebook Watch, Pluto, and Xumo.” And yes, Cheddar is that media outlet that posts those crazy videos on LinkedIn (see below–robot gardens are a thing!).
According to a recent article in Ad Age, “Cheddar produces 19 hours of live news a day and is available in 40 million homes on ad-supported services like Roku, Pluto TV, YouTube TV, Sling, Hulu Live and DirecTV Now, as well as 1,600 screens in public areas of 600 college campuses through its network CheddarU. The network sees more than 400 million video views a month and draws in a young millennial audience from ages 25 to 34. Cheddar conducts its live broadcasts from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange and has a live streaming partnership with Twitter.” Its social distribution network isn’t huge (just 238.9K on Twitter, 900K on Facebook and 720 on Insta), but then again it’s heavily targeting the millennial generation which is more invested in platforms like Insta and even TikTok than Facebook and Twitter (for context, CBS News’ Insta has just 631K followers).
Bottom line: Cheddar is sizable, and growing. Especially among the coveted Millennial and Gen Z audiences. If you’re targeting those groups, I’m not sure how you can ignore it. Companies like Honeywell spin-off Resideo are realizing this–here’s coverage of the new smart home on Cheddar last fall.
NextGen media outlets exist well outside mainstream media, too. In my client work, I’ve researched, pitched and worked with many NextGen outlets over the last few years.
Outlets like TalentCulture.
According to founder, Meghan Biro, TalentCulture is “a community of insightful practitioners, big thinkers and problem solvers” in the HR, recruiting and workplace space. It draws more than 60,000 visitors to its web site each month, has more than 18,000 email subscribers and averages more than 4,500 downloads per podcast. What’s more, its audience is solid: 50% of readers have more than 20 years of experience. For context, BenefitsPro, one of the giants in the HR industry, draws more than 215,000 monthly visitors and has more than 29,000 email subscribers. So again, TC isn’t the biggest, but it’s definitely on the list and it’s definitely read by a powerful audience (here’s an example of a story I recently helped place on TalentCulture.)
So, are large MSM outlets like The New York Times still relevant and worth the time and effort? In some cases, yes. But, so are emerging outlets like Cheddar and TalentCulture All I’m saying is don’t ignore these newer outlets just because they’re new–in many cases, they may be targeting your key demographic!