Agencies are often prone to overstating the importance of new technology, and overlooking practices that have been around a long time. As David Ogilvy said after retiring from the company he founded:
– “I run the risk of being denounced by the idiots who hold that any advertising technique which has been in use for more than two years is … obsolete.”
The importance of traditional media relations recently suffered the same fate with the rise of digital distribution and social media. Suddenly the medium, rather than the content it conveyed, became seen as de facto influential.
Here we examine why this happened and its implications on the PR agency model. Not as an exercise in nostalgia, but to re-focus agencies on the cornerstone of what we do for clients: earning influence. Seeing all the channels in the modern communications mix through this lens will help us re-discover the importance of earned media.
The rise of free digital content and social media led to widespread assumptions that the importance of so-called ‘traditional’ or ‘legacy’ news outlets would be greatly diminished. Commentators, companies and agencies all wondered how, with more free content available online, would media stalwarts such as New York Times and USA Today continue to attract and retain paying readers.
Not only did digital distribution threaten traditional media’s profitability, it allowed brands to reach their audience directly. This led PR agencies to reduce the emphasis put on building relationships with traditional media outlets, in favor of managing digital content and social media campaigns. Research by Cision UK in 2015 found that only 8% of the PR agencies surveyed said they met journalists face to face anymore.
However, the predicted demise of traditional media never materialized. In fact, traditional media is more important than ever. Today, modern news channels have embraced technology, especially mobile and social technologies, to transform and take on renewed significance as purveyors of breaking news and in-depth analysis. News distribution has changed. News can be received in new ways and across more channels but traditional news outlets remain as important as ever.
Against this backdrop, agencies must recognize that earned media is alive and well, and appreciate how the earned influence that legacy media can bring to clients never disappeared.
We exist within a communications landscape that can no longer be characterized by a split between ‘traditional’ and ‘digital’ media. Instead we have a diversified information ecosystem where established media outlets exist alongside new digital publishers, brands and individuals who also produce content. However, established media outlets play a pivotal and evolved role, and exercise at least as much, if not more, influence as before.
In today’s modern communications landscape, traditional media, social media and content marketing should, therefore, be seamlessly integrated as part of a holistic offer to help clients build relationships and earn influence amongst audiences.
Read more on this in our report.