December 7, 2011

Times They R A Changin!

I came into PR when online news, blogs and forums were dramatically changing how journalists approached their writing. Newspapers were marching online, columnists turned into bloggers, and bloggers were now churning out three to four stories a day. Before I joined the aerospace and defense community, it was rare that I pitched print journalists. In fact, it was often considered a bonus if an editor told me that the online article would be included in the upcoming print magazine. This move to the Web created a few challenges for me: 
1.       Securing Day-Of-Coverage: With a noisy news environment and the need to write several articles a day, first-day coverage was imperative – otherwise you quickly became old news. Forget getting covered a week after a press release went out.
2.       Press Releases Postings: From a search-engine-optimization standpoint, press release postings are a big help. But, when you’re looking for third-party validation (a big reason companies work with PR people….that journalists provide validation to news and you can achieve this without advertising) the drive to cover everything online can leave the analysis lacking.
3.       Did They Read It?:  There’s something to be said for getting a magazine or newspaper delivered to your door. Thumbing through the pages, revisiting stories. When online, it is so much easier to gloss past articles without notice - and I don’t know about you, but I rarely re-read any of them. I always found it difficult to be convinced that people actually read the article and let’s face it circulation and impression numbers are still a far cry from accurate measurement.
One of the reasons I fell in love with the modeling and simulation community was that it still loved, revered, and was holding on with two fists to print. At that time many of the key publications didn’t have an online component, or it was quite basic and corporate in approach. Reporters were dedicated to a craft that had been honed before the internet, stories had multiple sources, competitors were asked to comment, there was time to engage a customer in the discussion, and the resulting article was a lengthy, insightful, and impressive read. I still get chills when I break the spine of a magazine and see the glossy pages that include my company and our spokespeople, that bring forward an emerging trends, or profile an inspiring leader in our community. These features give me a barometer on how we’re shaping the industry.
This is changing however. Even though I am kicking and screaming on the inside. Over the last couple of years we have seen a big push to move our news online. Halldale has come up with a really nice balance to eliminate my #2 concern by summarizing press releases and highlighting news in their MS&T newsletter. Canadian Defence Review is progressively moving online but working to maintain its subscription-based model with a user login required so that the value of its feature article remains known. Military Technology has started a dedicated blog to give news an immediate acknowledgement – if you knew this team’s travel schedule it’s going to be awesome to get updates from the road.  
I have great hopes that the quality of reporting and industry analysis will remain as high as it is now. But, the thing is, these changes are going to influence journalists in their decision to include your news in a press release posting, a news brief, a blog post, or in a feature print story. They may just Tweet it (more on that later). We need to be ready for it. We have to embrace it. And we need to adjust how we value the end result. It’s going to take new conversations with our executive teams on the results that a news pipeline will generate. It’s going to force us to adjust how we write news and distribute it. It's going to change the conversations we have with our fave media gurus. 
Ultimately, it’s going to change how we view the printed word. 


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