Saying that earned media is at an all-time low is an understatement. I've noticed that after working in the public relations industry, we're pitching media less and integrating social more. Is this a bad thing? Yes and no...
The Fall of Traditional PR
Popular print publications like Lucky have had to flee newsstands because of the lack of editorial opportunity and this is just the start. Since then more have either shut down completely or switched to online only and quarterly printing schedule. Why is this? What has happened to our beloved print pages?
As someone who strongly believes in tangible pages you can turn (a.k.a I prefer real books to ebooks), it doesn't completely surprise me that this would happen. With the way the world is now, more people are reading the news on their cell phone as opposed to stopping by their local magazine stand to see what the latest scoop is. The convenience of using a mobile device like a laptop, tablet or smart phone outweighs the exclusivity of reading certain stories in print publications not available online.
Even stranger, when I was working at my second agency in New York, there was such a huge emphasis on securing coverage in a print publication as opposed to a online one - why? The online version would have more viewers and would be easier to share with others. The print one would probably be read maybe twice and then recycled. It just didn't seem to make sense why it was so much more exciting to get a print placement when and online one gave the brand more visibility.
The Thing About Print...
When I secured my first print coverage for Women's Health I was PUMPED. A 1M+ circulation print publication was about to do a full story using my health expert thanks to the power of pitching the right person at the right time (basically the stars had aligned) and since it was print it would be months until we saw the final product. After I passed along all the information that was needed to write the article, I had to leave for military training and left it with a co-worker to see the opportunity through.
February arrives and I am totally jazzed to see my client get their shining moment come to find it's anything but amazing. Not only was it not the article I pitched the editor, but they conveniently left off that my expert was from Medifast - the client that I made sure to send all the information for, link and confirm the title for several times. Now, I'm not mad Nick didn't get a full page spread, that's not the idea. Earned media should be seamless but the fact that after countless conversations the editor neglected to add in the company Nick worked for is the reason why I don't feel print is that valuable anymore.
Had this been an online piece, I could email the editor and request "Medifast" be added in (by the way adding in one word would not make it "promotional" at this point since it isn't pushing a service, merely stating a title) with hardly any hassle but since it's print it was a missed opportunity and frankly a waste of my time. I have emails to show that I ensured Nick's full title was stated to be in this article and the editor clearly ignored this and did what she wanted anyway. I 100% understand if Nick had a ridiculous title that was too long and too promotional, but to add in "at Medifast" is not considered an overly promotional title considering it gives him more credibility giving dietary advice working at a diet company.
And that ladies and gentlemen, is why I don't know if I truly see a value in print media anymore unless you're looking to advertise. When you have editors that blatantly ignore you and then ghost you after a piece is published, they're someone you don't want to be working with again. Regardless of whether they write about my beat or not, this is the moment I decided I would no longer "kiss ass" when it comes to working with editors. Trying to build a relationship that is mutually beneficial is one thing, at the end of the day they want to be treated like a person. But when they completely ignore and disrespect your transparency and your ability to provide credibility to their article, it's time to cut the cord.
Now by no means am I saying I loathe editors or disrespect their job, but I do however have an issue with a lack of transparency. In public relations and social media, transparency is absolutely key and when you decide it isn't relevant or important, then it bothers me.
I respect the writing process and the way by which we gather our facts and knowledge about topics to write about, but it would've been nice to give a heads up that including my client was too promotional and instead asking if there's an alternative way we can phrase this so everyone wins.
Print is almost dead - and this is why. People don't want fickle editors tainting stories they can't fix until a month later with a retraction. Public relations professionals don't want to spend their workdays cleaning up a mess they made because an editor didn't keep up their end of a promise and instead pretty much screwed you on a big editorial moment for your client. We don't need the added stress of an editor's inability to communicate with you the importance of keeping an article trustworthy and completely losing your professional trust in the process. There's no reason for it to be like this and there's no reason I should waste my time pushing for a print hit when all it has done is given me anxiety and grief.
Now just because I had one bad experience doesn't mean I didn't work with some wonderful editors that have fact-checked so often that our email conversations might as well be text messages, but one bad egg can leave bad taste. I've worked with some wonderful print editors that have been so accommodating and pleasant and will email me back often with additional opportunities and questions about the clientele I have and I'm grateful for them. However, some editors who ghost you after botching your article are better off exactly how they want to be - irrelevant and invisible.
Have you had a less than thrilling editorial experience? Share in the comments below or tweet me @CTrecatePR