It’s just over a hundred years since the first press release was issued by a company in an effort to tell their story in the media. In 1906, after a railroad accident, the company hired a journalist to help them deal with the disaster and the media coverage. Soon press releases and media relations became a core part of public relations.
In the 1930s radio was a part of most American households. Companies and PR agencies soon realized that just sending a text press release to a radio station was not enough. Sending a photograph was a complete waste of time. This was a new medium with new technology and it needed new content. And so the sound bite was born. Smart PR agencies and company PR pros quickly learned how to make 15-second audio clips to send with their releases.
And then came TV. By 1955 half of all American homes had a TV and this became the medium of choice for news. Smart PR folk had to adapt once again. They had to learn to create news content for yet another new technology. Text releases with photographs or sound bites in audio recordings are not useful to a TV station. This time the learning curve was steeper. Video news releases took quite a bit of skill and creative talent. They were also expensive to produce and distribute.
Just as we thought we had this technology thing under control the Internet arrived. By 1995 companies were realizing they needed a website. By 1999 everyone was chasing the digital bubble. Since then the technology has accelerated and each year sees new ideas, platforms, social networks and services emerging.
This time PR pros have been slow to see the trends and adapt. In 2006 when the idea of search visibility for news content was catching on and Google launched Google News, PR pros and agencies were not open to the idea of optimizing news content for search engines. (Even today less than 20% of all press releases put on the wire services are optimized for search.)
By 2007 Facebook launched business pages and Twitter started to gain momentum. In the last five years we’ve seen the explosion of digital content opportunities for earned and owned media create havoc with the mainstream media. The public and the media want their news delivered in new formats. Visuals are of paramount importance. Immediacy is the key. We’re in a 24/7new cycle and people want to see what’s happening right now. Every media outlet has a website. They’re updating news constantly and they’re all using text, images, and video.
Now that most PR people have wrapped their wits around the idea of digital and social earned and owned media is there anything else we have to learn? Indeed there will always be new things to learn. The one constant in digital PR and marketing is that there is rapid innovation and change.
As the PR, advertising and marketing landscapes converge, the one avenue that PR folk should be mastering is paid media. It’s a far cry from the old advertising model of banner ads or advertorial. Pay attention to social advertising, promoted stories and recommended content. There are many opportunities for smart PR pros to syndicate their owned and earned content to new audiences, blogs and media sites.