Strategic Media Relations for Summertime

In 2013, the media industry went through a deep transformation. According to recent studies, it was one of the most dynamic years in terms of mergers and acquisitions: more than half of the respondents addressed by AD Media, a global advertising agency, had been approached by a strategic buyer in 2013; one in three respondents had been approached by a financial investor. A third of the respondents had also received purchase offers and one in five was finally acquired by a new business entity.

We don’t need to go very far to check upon this reality: just remember the moves that shook the Czech media market last year, starting with the purchase of the Mafra publishing house by Andrej Babiš in June 2013 and ending with the sale of Ringier Axel Springer CZ, publisher of the most widely read Czech daily Blesk to the local businessmen Daniel Křetínský and Patrik Tkáč in December 2013.

This obvious market concentration triggered numerous debates; I won’t dwell any further into what’s right and wrong with these transactions.

What I would like to do is to offer some thoughts on how those of you interested in using media relations for strategic communication can and should use these market dynamics to boost your visibility and give a new dimension to your public image.

1. Understand what’s going on. 

May we like it or not, commercial media are just that: commercial entities meant to bring profits to their owners and – if possible – satisfaction to their employees.

Yes, media have a social role; yes, media transform the way we perceive reality; yes, we should be aware of all that and hold them responsible when they are going too far.

But what is “too far” in the quest for black figures at the end of the year? The same question can go to other sectors: banking, energy, real estate or retail.

Admitting that media is important because it deals with our emotions, level of information and perception of the world, we also need to admit that on a capitalist market we’ve got commercial media that (should) thrive on advertising. The fact that new investors swarm around media outlets means that they believe these cash cows have still some future ahead.

For media relations specialists that means two things.

First: expect even more pressure on your advertising budget if you want to get into the newspapers without a powerful story.

Second: if you don’t have an ad budget, you better have – or develop – brilliant media relations (a heart-touching story, engaged experts and leadership, courageous opinions and above all timely and relevant news content).

2. Media is not everything anymore 

People in your marketing and PR department may know it already: sheer media relations are not sufficient anymore to get your message across.

In fact, it hasn’t been since 2007, but in the light of the economic crisis and debacle that it brought we tended to hang on to traditional ways of doing things.

Why? Simply because new technologies (social media, mobile apps etc.) empowered the people you care about (your customers, employees or business partners) to get together on other virtual platforms, to share opinions, gather information and make decisions on whether to buy from you or not.

You need to be there where your public is. You need to keep an eye on all these platforms at the same time and be ready to flexibly mould your communication processes in the direction of interest of your audiences.

Traditional media isn’t the main source of information anymore.

Does it mean you should ignore it? No. It is still powerful, it is still relevant and, particularly in case of crisis communication, it can still trash your brand and get you out of business.

It only means that you should think more about strategic cross-platform communication than about media relations per se.

The lines between marketing, PR, content management, SEO, event management, graphic design and other specialties get more and more blurred.

How can you handle this challenge? By going back to the roots: clarify (again) who you are and what you bring to the world, closely follow the moves of your audiences, develop a mutual conversation with your publics and cultivate engaged representatives and flexible processes that allow you to communicate what you need, when you need it and only to those who listen.

3. Bet on trustworthiness and personal relations

Back to the news makers, it has never been more important to go back to the basics of media relations: know thy reporter.

With so many news reps moving from one job to another or launching titles, blogs and projects of their own, you simply need to know who the opinion makers in your industry are.

The media market is fragmenting; this process will continue in 2014 as well.

It may be tiring to follow the constant moves of those who cover your industry. However, the best thing you can do this summer is to get a handful of journos out for a beer, coffee or breakfast and let them talk.

Listen to their needs, understand how they work, share your experience and view of the world, cultivate the relationship and become a trustworthy source. In this chaotic media world trust in individuals is all we’ve got. It has always been the fundamental pillar of strategic media relations.

Fortunately, the economic crisis and wave of M&As didn’t change anything about it. We are still human beings and we need to trust and rely on each other in order to move forward.   

This article has been first published in the column MEDIAPOWER in the Prague Leaders Magazine in July 2014

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The best way to gain, retain, and restore your critical distance as a woman CEO is to have a faithful guide, thought partner, and inspiring challenger by your side. This is what I am for women CEOs. If you are facing major developments in your business or in your career this year, we should talk. Please book or have your assistant book a no-strings-attached free 30-minute CEO exploration call with me; we will get to know each other and I will be thrilled to spot how I could be of your service in 2024 and beyond.
Cristina Muntean
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Let's Talk

The best way to gain, retain, and restore your critical distance as a woman CEO is to have a faithful guide, thought partner, and inspiring challenger by your side. This is what I am for women CEOs. If you are facing major developments in your business or in your career this year, we should talk. Please book or have your assistant book a no-strings-attached free 30-minute CEO exploration call with me; we will get to know each other and I will be thrilled to spot how I could be of your service in 2024 and beyond.