Coping with the Rise of the Fractured Communications Class


On any given day, we get our news and information in bite (and byte) sized chunks. While drinking our morning coffee and perusing through what’s left of our city’s newspaper, we’re tapping into a favorite news aggregator via our iPhones, knowing full well that online sources have now reported even more about the stories than we’re seeing in print. We get a text from a friend about a sale at our favorite store; we read a tweet from a local restaurant about today’s special; and update our friends on Facebook about an article they “must read.”

 This sums up the perfect storm in which we all currently live – mammoth changes to the manner and means in which news and information is being disseminated combined with a significant shift in the way people want and need to consume it.  Not a newsflash you say? Been coming for a while? The reality is that this storm has a bold and broad impact, and Public Relations is hardly being spared. Does the following sound familiar?

  • The boss wants to be everywhere, but the definition for “everywhere” changes daily as more and more resources, social media outlets and Apps are added to the communications chain on what seems to be an hourly basis.
  • The journalist is doing it all, playing the role of assignment manager, reporter, editor AND producer. And once they’re done with the story, they’re editing it for print, blogs, tweets, etc. to make sure it is as “everywhere” as possible.
  • And the communicator (that’s you!), the one responsible for making sure the news gets “everywhere,” is neck-deep just trying to figure out which of the zillion tools they should use to do so and how on earth they’re going to get it out in a timely manner with only so many hours in the day.

 So how can we strategically brave this “storm”? There are a few key principles that can help PR pros get and keep control, but also serve as broad strategies as more changes come (you know they will) and this fractured communications class continues to evolve:

Journalists are wearing a lot of hats, and you should too.

As mentioned earlier, today’s journalist is doing a lot more than just reporting the news. It’s about time we as communicators rethink our job description as well. Over the last 12 months, I’ve experienced more and more occasions where I’ve pitched a story to an editor, only to then be asked by the editor to write and submit it as a bylined article. I don’t see this trend dissipating any time soon, so we’d all be wise to dust off our AP Style Book and learn a little about using a video camera.

Get a grip…on what’s available.

A little research can go a long way. Email your colleagues in the industry and ask what tools – from press release distribution services to media coverage tracking, analysis and reporting -- they’re using and why. And do some research online and find out what resources are available, and which are getting top ratings from other communicators just like you. Take the time to build your arsenal of communications weaponry and then assess on a case-by-case basis which ones would be appropriate for your news.

Don’t always scratch that itch.

It’s a good idea to stay on top of the next big PR tool that just debuted, but kill yourself by changing up your routine every two weeks. Get good, and I mean GOOD, at the tools you’ve deemed the best, then stick with them. This will help you stay in control of what could otherwise be a marathon of posting your social media press release to countless distribution sites. Change it up if there’s good reason, but don’t make things harder on yourself just because something’s new.

“Everybody” should never be your target audience.

Nothing makes your job harder than maintaining that everyone is your customer, public or other. Hone in on your specific audience – whether by profiling them by geographic, demographic, psychographic or other data. This will help you craft a message that’s much more relevant, as well as narrow the suite of tools and mediums you use to reach them.

Recycling isn’t just for soda cans.

Make “repurposing” your “new thing.” Your social media press release can easily be repackaged into a scrumptious little tweet, a compelling video short or a brief blog entry in a matter of minutes. Give your news its best chance of reaching your target audience by configuring and delivering it in relevant formats across appropriate mediums.  

 It’s always about business goals. Always.

When it comes to your communications strategy, ensure that there is alignment of business goals and how your efforts will be measured against them. If your boss really wants your news to be “everywhere,” it would be a good idea to sit down and get them to quantify what they mean, then use that as the foundation for your measurement matrix. Bottom line, all communications initiatives – regardless of whom they’re targeting or what tools and mediums are used – must track back to overarching business goals.

 The good news and bad news—everyone on every side of the communications equation is struggling. However, if you apply the principles above and give yourself and your organization the implicit permission to fail at times, all should be okay. This storm too will settle.

 
About the Author

Joe Hodas is the senior VP-brand communications at Vladimir Jones, a privately held, full-service agency in Colorado specializing in integrated marketing, advertising, communications and insight. Hodas formerly led communications for Consumer Capital Partners (Quiznos, Smashburger) and Frontier Airlines, where he worked on the team that launched the "a whole different animal" branding campaign. Contact him at jhodas@vladimirjones.com.




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