The dawn of the Internet likely signaled the beginning of dusk for traditional journalism. More and more, readers began to turn to the Internet for not just entertainment, but knowledge, and then news, and now just about everything. In fact, according to a study done by the American Press Institute, 69 percent of Americans get their news from online sources.
Most of these sources would rather not hire someone to research and write a story from scratch, no matter how interesting the subject. They prefer to publish an already well-crafted piece, without paying a dime for it.
But how does this really affect public relations?
More Journalists Flood PR
Publicists and journalists often have a love-hate relationship. PR experts want their stories heard and distributed via as many sources as possible, but as the gatekeepers, journalists do not always agree with the story and the message brought forward for sharing. The irony in all this is that many PR specialists come from journalism backgrounds.
In fact, as more free content makes it to the Internet, more journalists lose their jobs. But as more journalists become unemployed, they find employment in public relations. There is one thing Edelman’s President of Strategic Partnerships and Global Integration, Weber Shandwick’s Head of the Brazilian branch, and Burson-Marstellar’s founding Chairman have in common – they all have backgrounds in journalism.
Companies Run their Own Blog
To move away from a reliance on journalists and the shrinking gates they keep anyway, many companies run blogs on their website. Freelance writers and/or journalists who help to write stories for publishing, which share big changes and achievements the company makes, keep these blogs alive.
As a result, companies became less and less reliant on news networks to help them break stories or distribute press releases. Nevertheless, when mentioned in bigger news outlets like Daily Mail or Huffington Post, they are often quick to include these accomplishments on their blogs as well.
With more free content flooding the net from credible and non-credible sources, content creators and distributors must compete for an audience. As a result, what once started as free content, benefits most when boosted via paid distribution.
Many firms use sponsored posts on Facebook, Instagram on Twitter to get their message across. Others pay for Google Ad placements, or work with companies which help to put their clients’ stories on the sidebar of popular sites like Buzzfeed, New York Times, or Cosmo.
Other sponsored content comes in the form of articles related to topics brands can benefit from. Brands then pay to have their names included as sponsors in much the same way as when cable TV would announce that programs were “brought to you by” Johnson & Johnson, or Toyota. These forms of advertisements are more palatable and allow potential customers to form a better understanding of the company and its expertise.
The growth of free media also led to the growth of niche marketing. Companies no longer need to rely on expensive celebrity endorsements to reach a particular group. Instead, they can reach out to bloggers and social media successes that distribute their messages and stories at a cost, or even for a free sample.
This kind of marketing helps brands to build on the trust already created by YouTube reviewers and lifestyle bloggers, as their audience is most likely to take their advice. Think about it. Most people who wish to buy a product, but struggle to make a choice, will likely check our reviews, or their favorite bloggers to see what they have to say about the matter. Companies like Subaru and Apple make use of this kind of marketing and free media time and time again.
Free media certainly changed the game for journalism, public relations, and communications in general. However, if specialists can learn to adapt to the ever-changing environment, they can triumph and transform their career from one profession to the next in the communications industry.