Ah, the good old days—when politicians held news conferences to announce
plans to run for office, journalists knocked on doors for a story, and
we relied on reporters to ask uncomfortable questions in a TV interview.
Thanks to the power of new information channels such as social
networking, online video, and blogging, PR professionals can create and
syndicate content at the click of a mouse. Forget a press conference or
interview—instead, people and companies push out self-made online
videos, blogs, and Facebook posts to avoid the hard questions and
control their message.
You are your own media outlet—or at least you can be.
“Blogging, Facebook, and Twitter have made it so much easier to pitch
the media. It’s real time, 24 hours, and easier to manage,” says Teana
McDonald, founder of InStyle Diva. “It’s created many more opportunities
for us to pitch our clients.”
Facebook and Twitter are now pathways to news, but their roles might not be as large as some have suggested. A January 2013 poll
from the Media and Public Opinion Research Group found that about 31
percent of Americans get their news from cable TV, and 29 percent access
news from network television. The Internet placed third, followed by
newspapers and radio. So, social media platforms are additional paths to
news, not replacements for traditional ones.
So, is it possible to practice PR without reporters? Sure.
Is it smart? Not really.
“This strategy lacks the third-party credibility that comes from media,”
says Matt Braun, director of public relations at Hanson Dodge Creative.
“‘As seen on Facebook’ just doesn’t have the same credibility as ‘As
seen in The Wall Street Journal
RELATED: Hear how top companies have adapted to digital PR industry changes at this August event.
“Social and new media have made it increasingly easy to put
your unmitigated message in front of your audience, so in many regards,
it definitely cuts down on the stuff you would typically think about
pitching to reporters,” says Matt Krayton, founder of Publitics PR.
“There is nothing quite like building solid relationships with
reporters. They keep you honest and, as a result, provide a certain
Each pitching strategy has its pros and cons. When you pitch to a
reporter, for example, you’re at the mercy of a news editor and what he
or she deems newsworthy, says Braun. You also risk having your pitch get
lost in the newsroom abyss, says Krayton. The ratio of PR people to
“pitchable” journalists is estimated
at 4 to 1, resulting in email inbox overload.
“There are a lot of garbage, irrelevant pitches out there,” says Gail
Sideman, owner and publicist, Publiside Personal Publicity. “Some PR
people are so pressured by their clients or bosses to pitch stories with
no real news value that they devalue themselves and leave reporters
with a bad taste should they ever pitch another story.”
If you play your cards right, the relationship between PR pro and journalist is unmatched.
“Few know your audience better than a reporter who spends hours each day
embedded with a topic,” Sideman says. “Relationships are certainly more
challenging. Media staffs are smaller, familiar faces are gone, and PR
people have the responsibility to communicate the most succinct,
educated, and informative news possible, or [they] risk being ignored or
Conversely, social tools allow instant publishing and 100 percent
control of the message, without having to inundate journalists with
irrelevant pitches, says Tami Monahan Forman, director of global
corporate communications at Return Path. “The downside is that the world
knows you have control, so it’s less credible. But that is the downside
to media relations—you get the story they write, not the story you
Ultimately, your pitch strategy should depend on your client’s business
goals, says Forman. “Any PR program that isn’t focused on driving
objectives for the business is not going to be successful,” she says.
“Best-case scenario, it will produce a bunch of activity [such as]
clips, tweets, and blog posts that no one feels too great about.
Worst-case scenario, it will just be an absolute failure.”
So, although PR and your clients still want—and warrant—a mention high
on the media food chain, public consumption of information demands that,
for better or worse, the smartest PR plans involve a mixture of new and
traditional PR methods.
“A pitch is a pitch. It’s got to be short, to the point, and tell the
reporter why they should care,” Braun says. “If you can do this in 140
characters and that’s how the reporter wants to get information, great.
If not, pick up the phone and have a two-minute conversation.”