Astonishing data from the U.S. Census shows there are six public relations professionals for every reporter. And that’s likely a combination of the shrinking of journalism, especially at the local level, and the “need” for more PR in a world where anyone with a smartphone can derail a product, company, candidate, or public figure.
And in politics, the situation is more acute, as Axios reporter Shane Shavitsky noted this week, “making noise is the key to getting attention in today’s D.C.”
In light of these facts, two questions emerge: First, why, in a world of social media, blogs, YouTube, and influencers are organizations pouring money into the oversaturated traditional PR space? Second, what should candidates and organizations who don’t want to run the race to the bottom of being the loudest do to get their message out there.
Audience = Distribution
Organizations are still pursuing a traditional media outreach strategy because they need their audiences. Legacy media like TV and newspapers still drive the news conversation online with their large audiences and in the age of social media these outlets are experts at distribution. The traditional PR approach still works on many new media sites as well.
It is far easier to hire a PR team or agency and tap into the existing distribution network of media outlets via their reporters than for an organization or company to build their own audience.
Sending a press release, taking a reporter to drinks, and offering access is turnkey. Building you own audience takes time.
Distribution Needs to Be Built In
“In politics, nothing moves unless pushed.” So if you’re not willing or able to be the loudest noisemaker, you’ve got to build distribution into your strategy. Most of traditional PR is focused on content creation: Op-Eds, press releases, social media posts, story pitches, and videos with distribution largely an afterthought.
In campaigns, for example, one of the biggest mistakes candidates typically make is spending thousands of dollars on a campaign launch video without the most basic budget or plan to get it seen by voters.
The 6 to 1 odds are bad for traditional PR and they’re only going to get worse. The shift has to be made from content creation to content distribution.
If you want your marketing efforts to be effective, you should be focusing 90% on distribution and 10% on content creation. If you can build distribution right into your content, even better.