I've been thinking about the recent developments with the WSJ announcing that they wouldn't honor embargoes anymore in favor of exclusivity. Given that the journal plans to continue charging for content, that is a hot button for them. According to Paid Content [hat tip Jeremy Peppers], if PR professionals approach them on a story, then they can refuse and go around and hunt down the story if they want to.
Given that many sites now compete for newsworthy items - and traffic - online, this seems to be aligned with the news organization wanting to stay ahead of the pack and do its job. If I look at the issue from a public relations perspective, I do know that pitching a story to the WSJ means it needs to be WSJ-newsworthy - in other words, something the journal cannot get elsewhere.
The truth is that mainstream media publications have not changed much from offline to online, and the press release has not changed much, either. By and large this means that there is one main carefully written, reviewed and approved message that, thanks to wire services and email, is broadcast to as many outlets - and now bloggers - as possible at once.
The real conversation from a public relations standpoint then would potentially start after a news release is issued. That's still very much a reactive way of looking at PR though, isn't it? Proactive doesn't exactly mean reaching out to reporters and journalists a couple of days before the release. It's more like the ongoing relationship-building activities that would give one a view as to what the journalist is working on and how a company could be helpful assisting with expertise for background information, data, etc.
Wikipedia's definition of public relations is a set of management, supervisory, and technical functions that foster an organization's ability to strategically listen to, appreciate, and respond to those persons whose mutually beneficial relationships with the organization are necessary if it is to achieve its missions and values.
To take things to the next level, from reactive, to proactive, to interactive, I'd say that public relations becomes the discipline that is more closely in touch with customers as well as stakeholders. The inside team in a company should then be able to interact with customers and other publics through blogs and do that in stewardship to the company brand and services. I see them more as facilitators than personalities, in other words.
In addition to all of the previous functions of public relations professionals, here are some interesting - and exciting - developments in public relations interactivity from where I sit - in addition to the ever important listening function:
- multimedia - with the recognition of formats specific to new media visuals, audio and video are part of the interaction (yes, I know, I'm not practicing that here much... in the PR part of my day job, I am)
- content creation and publishing has the potential to build you new media equity, with all the connected conversations on search engine optimization, value, and participation. Comments are content, too
- context creation - stories today are contributed not just from the company point of view, so with facilitation comes content curating
- understanding that news
- internal and external align - the ability to be responsive hinges upon subject matter experts understanding the importance and value to the organization of being involved
Trying new things and failing fast is part of the mix and par for the course. This is where public relations professionals have the ability to spot trends. Later this week, we will talk about more ideas on this. This is what I'm thinking and envisioning. Does it jive with a direction you'd embrace for the profession?