Influencers v Journalists

It’s become a fact of life for PR agencies over the past few years, particularly those with consumer-facing clients, that they need to engage with ‘social media influencers’ as well as journalists from traditional media outlets.  This of course requires a different, though related, set of skills – ideas still have to be generated and content created, although the influencers expect free gifts or money for their efforts.

However, it is becoming increasingly apparent that some PR agencies have started to believe that these influencers are the be-all-and-end-all for getting their messages out to the wider world – ‘mainstream’ journalists are too much trouble, so the theory runs, it’s hard to get them to write what you want them to write, and nobody reads the papers any more do they, so why bother?  For their part, according to a recent survey, journalists are beginning to despair that the newer breed of PRs often don’t understand what they need, and have no idea of what’s been in the papers.  I have recently come across a number of examples of brands big and small missing great opportunities for coverage in a big-selling title, because the PR didn’t respond in a timely fashion and provide the basics that were needed (eg a quote and a high-resolution image).  Others miss the chance to get interesting comments across on what’s going on in their sector and establish the much-desired ‘thought leadership’.  This is crazy – there is a huge amount of positive coverage to be had on a variety of topics, everything from style trends to investment themes, in a variety of outlets.  For instance, mention of an attractive item of furniture in a newspaper style piece can mean the item is an immediate sell-out.

Any company or brand which doesn’t recognise the continuing power of the key publications, radio stations and TV channels is missing a trick, and can’t influence the debate.  So make sure your organisation responds to media enquiries swiftly and positively wherever feasible, and have some well media-trained spokespeople at the ready.  With very few exceptions, the resultant coverage – so-called ‘earned media’ – will probably gain you a lot more ‘influence’ and won’t cost you a penny.

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