The Times, They Are A-Changin'

The first assignment I had when I started as a PR intern was to build a media list. I was told to go to the agency’s library, find the media atlas (roughly the size of three dictionaries and one of the most unwieldy things I’ve ever handled) and page through by state, marking each appropriate reporter with a post-it note. Then I went back to my desk and manually input each contact into an excel spreadsheet. It probably took a total of three hours to complete that relatively simple task.

Today, training our newest crop of Greenough interns on how to use an online database to find publication details and reporters’ contact information, it occurred to me how much things have changed. In just a few short years, I’m willing to bet that the giant media atlas has been made obsolete, even in the smallest of agencies. Editorial calendars—once the PR professional’s mainstay for knowing what a publication planned to focus on month by month—are also well on their way to extinction. We used to build relationships with reporters by mentioning an interesting article they’d written, or researching their background to see if there were any shared connections like colleges, hometowns or sports teams. Now, we can follow them on Twitter, comment on their blogs and join their network on LinkedIn.

The PR industry has adapted fairly well to these changes. For those not on the forefront of the “new media revolution,” however, the changing way we conduct public relations can sometimes be surprising. I know our clients can get frustrated when we tell them that the old way of doing things simply doesn’t work anymore. It’s our job to tell them that, though, and to make sure they’re navigating the new landscape with the best tools possible.

To do that presupposes a certain amount of trust. Our clients must trust that we know the best ways to tell their stories and we have to trust that they will arm us with the information necessary to tell it effectively. When that happens, both parties are primed for success. When it doesn’t happen, PR pros and clients alike are in for a frustrating experience.

As Bob Dylan sang “…you better start swimmin’/ Or you’ll sink like a stone/ For the times they are a-changin’.” What do you think—are you ready to take a dip in the new media landscape?

- Contributed by Kate Finigan. Follow her @PRKateFin