Posted on: January 12, 2023
Let’s be honest: Social media is sexy, and so is the discourse surrounding it. From the latest TikTok trend to Elon Musk taking over Twitter, there always seems to be something new happening in the digital world.
Social media is full of “influencers” with millions of devoted followers, and those influencers can have more of a public platform than Fortune 500 CEOs and elected officials in many cases. (Don’t look now, but Kylie Jenner has more than 372 million followers!)
Still, public relations practitioners should be careful about getting too caught up in the social media craze. Yes, the digital aspect of PR is important, and increasingly so. By now, we all know the value-add of influencer marketing—the strategy whereby brands partner with those who have engaged social media followings. Influencer marketing is often described as the contemporary version of product placement, further blurring the lines between paid and earned media, given that it’s more of a paid advertising tactic (paying influencers to endorse products).
But there’s more to PR than the digital universe. It is my opinion that the ultimate influencer for PR practitioners to leverage is still traditional media. After all, PR budgets seldom include paid influencer marketing, so professionals in the field need to be creative about promoting their clients in other ways. The original way—and still the most important way—comes down to traditional media.
It’s imperative for PR practitioners to build and take advantage of relationships with their “most wanted” media lists and contacts. From reporters and editors to bookers and producers, the bread and butter of public relations is being a valuable resource to media contacts and leaning on them to provide clients with news coverage. The more favorable the coverage, the better!
Securing an op-ed placement in a local newspaper still matters. Landing a feature story in a national publication is still impactful. The mainstream media still carries a whole lot of influence. News outlets may not be as funny or provocative as the Kardashians, but they are still leading influencers. Not only that, but they tend to be highly reputable, bringing the power of third-party validation to the table.
I’m in client meetings all the time, and people often say things like, “nobody reads the newspaper” or “no one watches TV anymore.” They project what they or their children do (not watching cable news or reading newspapers) onto others, but you can’t just assume that everyone is like you. Millions of people are still influenced by traditional media sources, so they cannot be ignored.
Of course, the news cycle is also influential because of social media. PR practitioners can take advantage of influencer marketing’s increasing impact by tapping into the social media accounts of news outlets. All of the most popular news outlets have social media accounts, influencing millions of people with breaking news and other forms of coverage.
If you’re promoting tourism to a state like Maine, doesn’t it make sense for your client to be tagged in a Travel + Leisure Instagram reel? If your client is a product manufacturer, wouldn’t it be highly desirable for them to appear in a Today Show gift guide Facebook post?
The impact of traditional media is both inherent and multifaceted. There is obviously value in a news story in itself, but the overall reach of that story may be exponentially amplified on social media. Feature your client in one, and you’re reaching a wide range of target audiences—from the people who read the news source directly to those who engage with it via social media.
The digital world has many, many layers in that regard. So take advantage of it! You should share a legitimate media result on your social media platforms since it lends credibility and legitimacy to your brand. You’re much more strongly positioned as a thought leader when there’s earned media to your name, especially in the eyes of your followers. That is the third-party validation, whereby earned media validates you. Plus, the reach of that media “hit” will only be extended through social media and the followers who may share it with others.
It’s also worth keeping in mind that freelance writers often have dedicated social media followings, even if they’re not affiliated with any one publication. Even though they’re not employed by a particular news outlet, freelance writers should still be featured prominently on your various media lists. It’s possible to share appropriate hashtags and other types of content with them directly, and they’ll most likely appreciate it.
Let’s say you’ve secured a top-tier media result. That’s awesome! But your work doesn’t stop there: Make sure to post it on social media, tagging both the writer and the news outlet. Chances are, they will share it if tagged, expanding the overall scope of readership.
So, yes, social media is a key influencer. Use it to your advantage. But don’t forget about traditional media. In many ways, it’s the ultimate influencer—the “OG” influencer, as millennials like to say.
This article originally appeared on the Forbes Agency Council CommunityVoice in November 2022.