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On the Current State of Old-School Media Relations

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A couple of media relations tidbits appeared in the news this week: an Economist writer wishes they could involve a little more “old fashioned subtlety” while a certain PR professional argues that we should throw the telephone out altogether in favor of more casual email conversations.

It’s true, as Gini Dietrich wrote in the comments, that many recurring complaints are about journalists beating up on PR, which makes for an unfortunately easy target.

What, then, is the current state of media relations? Last week our friend Peter Himler penned a PRSA op-ed on the subject, and it’s well worth a read.

Himler begins by reporting on others’ concerns that younger PR professionals don’t spend enough time developing their media relations skills amidst talk of paid/owned content.

The piece argues that traditional media relations is here to stay no matter the current state of the journalist-to-PR ratio or the move toward data-driven PR, because no metrics reports can replace the value clients place on “placements” in great publications. Therefore, a familiarity with and an ability to relate to prominent journalists will remain one of the most valuable skills on anyone’s resume for the foreseeable future, no matter how many major magazines and newspapers close their doors or how many blogs struggle to find significant revenue streams.

Himler agrees that this fact presents a challenge regarding those newest to the profession, some of whom have little experience with the old-school way of doing things (through no real fault of their own) and cites this fact as a reason for a seeming uptick in PR spam complaints as more agencies rely on automated media database/distribution products.

He’s right, of course: nothing can replace the act of building an honest-to-God relationship with your contacts. It’s hard, sometimes slow work—but that’s the very reason it’s so valuable.

What do we think? To put it another way, what position does traditional “earned media” now occupy in the communications pyramid?

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