In The Age Of Fake News, Media Relations Still Matters
POST WRITTEN BY
Jade Faugno is vice president at Intermarket Communications, where she leads a number of financial services and higher education accounts.
We’ve all seen headlines like these: “Americans’ Trust in Mass Media Sinks to New Low” and “Most Americans Don’t Think The Media Is Honest.” The deliberate discrediting of our news media – by politicians, celebrities, your eccentric uncle, etc. – has succeeded in eroding Americans’ trust of traditional outlets and has left many people unable to distinguish scoop from scam.
Public relations professionals have every reason to be concerned about the future of our livelihood, which depends on inserting our clients into the news cycle to build credibility, confidence and goodwill. The current era of broken trust in the media, or trust in the wrong sources, has spurred most of us to focus more of our energy and resources on producing proprietary content. Technology, too, has changed the way we approach client campaigns. With more Americans getting their news on social media than ever before, we’ve moved more and more of our content to less traditional online forums.
But in my world, communicating primarily on behalf of financial services, financial technology and corporate clients to executive decision-makers and investors, the value of real news has not diminished. Even if more of this news is consumed online and on mobile devices, the old adage of “consider the source” is more relevant than ever.
A recent Quartz survey of global executives found that the vast majority (89%) notice the source of the links they click, and a whopping 85% said they evaluate the source of a story before sharing it. A full 84% said they are most likely to share long-form articles, the kind of journalism that depends on in-depth research and reliable sources – you know, the kind of sources PR people provide.
Investors, too, still want real news. The majority of affluent investors (54%) “still prefer to get their financial information the old-fashioned way, by reading an article,” according to a study from Spectrem Group.
This isn’t to say that print news is still king, by any means, since most of the executives surveyed by Quartz said they get their news from email newsletters, websites and news apps. But again, it’s the source that counts – and whether it’s a stalwart like The Wall Street Journal or a trusted newcomer like Axios, journalism produced by actual journalists needs to play a substantial role in clients’ external communications campaigns.
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I’ll give you an example of the value of traditional media relations in action. One of my firm’s clients does most of its business through its website, so traffic to that site is of the utmost importance to the internal marketing team. When digital advertising wasn’t driving the quantity or quality of leads they desired, they decided to engage our firm for PR. We’ve generated a number of earned media opportunities that have all contributed to the web traffic initiative, but the standout was a feature in the Financial Times, which not only drove a deluge of clicks but also directly accounted for nearly 500 qualified leads (according to the firm’s analytics, which track the referral source of each click). Long story short, an actual article in the FT, as opposed to paid content or digital ads, provided the eyeballs and the credibility to help this client achieve a measurable business goal.
The reality is that media relations may just be the hardest part of what we as PR people do. Anyone can write a tweet or a blog post, but media relations requires convincing a savvy reporter to buy what you’re selling and turn it into something worth reading (or clicking on). But that’s no reason to write it off in favor of a purely digital or paid content campaign because, again, there’s demonstrable value in positive press.
The stigma of “fake news” may cling to the popular consciousness for several years to come, but sophisticated audiences will continue to hold fast to reliable sources, which will only further demonstrate their value in a growing sea of misinformation. It’s up to us as PR professionals to use all the tools in our arsenal to reach intended constituencies, and from where I sit, traditional media relations still has a significant role to play.