Traditional PR approaches relied mostly on a well-defined network of contacts to whom you pitched news or an idea and some facts, and the reporter created a story. However, like that famous book about the moving cheese, many PR professionals are asking lately, “Who moved my reporter?”
As the economics of the information age have taken their full toll on the publishing industry, the “well-defined network of contacts” is looking more like a ghost town than a thriving metropolis. What’s key to remember is that these folks didn’t just disappear into thin air. Instead, many of the old school journalists have shifted and are now independent consultants who are writing for their own blogs and the Web sites of others.
The tables also have turned on traditional publications during the past 10 years, and they are now syndicating more content from major online sites. In today’s new ecosystem, a well-placed story in TechCrunch or GigaOM can have significantly more impact than any single article in a major local paper.
This means that if your company isn’t a major industry player, you shouldn’t expect to get much share of mind in a fast-paced digital world where everyone is competing for eyeballs—unless you have an exceptional story to tell.
Becoming the person who knows how to mesh “what will be published” with “writing what will be published” puts you in the perfect position to develop ready-to-go stories that will stand out from the digital noise bombarding online reporters, editors and bloggers. Let’s examine what makes a compelling story and how it translates to digital public relations.
Meet Both Needs
Regardless of the type of story, there are always two people in every story: the author and the reader. The author, or client, has a point to make while the reader wants to learn, be informed, entertained, amused, etc. An effective story meets the desires of both parties, whether it is written for an online audience or traditional media.
In the book The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell, the author talks about three types of people that are critical to the success of any word-of-mouth initiative: connectors, mavens and salesmen. As you can image, the connectors connect, the mavens inform and the salesmen convince. I think it is an excellent analogy for the purpose of writing a PR story for a client—a story to promote, a story to envision or a story to validate.
Note the use of the word “or” in the last paragraph. You must write stories that have a single, simple objective and have simple elements, as online writing must be more direct and shorter. So focus on doing one of the three points well as opposed to doing none of them well. In today’s time crunched society, deliver the point succinctly and close the story. We are not writing Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment.
Stephen Terlizzi is the managing partner and head of the social media practice for Tanis Communications.