There. I said it. The in-person media tour is dead. In the 1990s, “desk-side” briefings reigned. We regularly tracked executives’ travel schedules and lined up press meetings in New York, San Francisco and Boston, often with five or six each day. These often took place months in advance of an announcement, back when lead times for some print publications that published on a monthly schedule were as long as six, or even eight months.
Today, the technology world often works on deadlines of a few minutes. We’ve heard stories of stressed out bloggers, working around the clock to keep pace with their ambitious competitors, and then suffering heart attacks. I understand how this could happen. Often, if we have set an embargo for 8:00 a.m. ET, we’ll see a number of bloggers post their pieces at 7:58 a.m. ET just so they can say they were first, and to inch their way up in the search results. Embargoes, of course, are an entirely other issue (for more, read: The Embargo Lives, for Now).
As online media has quickened the pace of reporting, so too has the pace of PR increased. When just two or three years ago, we’d schedule quick 5-10 minute calls to provide quotes about breaking news to the press, today, now we frequently respond electronically, writing quotes and sending them in, often with a deadline of an hour to meet the reporter’s shortened deadlines. Reporters simply don’t have time to take the call. While they are writing their articles, we’re working on a quote that they can drop in at the last minute before pushing the story live. This does not mean that we won’t try and be opportunistic to schedule meetings around clients’ travel schedules – a good angle or a unique point of view always has potential to break through this clutter.
However, in general, all of this illuminates the way in which time has become a precious resource in the wake of constantly breaking news. Lunch breaks are a thing of the past, and office hours don’t exist. Reporters don’t have time to take an in-person meeting when a 20-minute call or an email interview will do. Likewise, they don’t have time to break away from their computers to attend events. We rarely, if ever, recommend scheduling an event just for the media. There are lots of good reasons to host in-person events, but you should consider media attendance an unexpected bonus if it happens.
There is good news for PR. The opportunities for inclusion in these short lead-time stories are numerous. We should stop lamenting the days when we could develop face-to-face relationships because they are, unfortunately, coming to a fast close. Relationships are still critical, and the way we can best foster them is through responsiveness and transparency. Following are a few tips from our experience here at InkHouse:
As in life, PR lives in shades of gray, so there are exceptions to my black and white perspective. For example, I’m fairly certain that people such as Bill Gates, Richard Branson and Al Gore could easily book an in-person meeting about virtually anything (or nothing) with almost any relevant reporter of their choosing. We also secure in-person meetings for the top executives at our Fortune 500 and high-profile venture capital clients. Additionally, if you have a major launch and happen to be in the same city as the beat reporter who always covers your news, chances are fairly good that you could book a meeting.
For the rest of us though, there is reality. You have to accept the reality of who you are, and adjust your expectations accordingly. Just because I love singing in the car and my three-year-old thinks I’m good does not mean I’ll be the next Adele, no matter how badly I believe I deserve it.
Beth is the CEO of InkHouse, which she co-founded in 2007 and has grown into one of the top ranked agencies in the country. Beth’s been recognized as one of the Top Women in PR by PR News, the Top 25 Innovators by The Holmes Report and as an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year finalist. Beth believes that shared values, and the freedom to create are the foundations of all meaningful work. She brings this philosophy to building a culture of creative progress at InkHouse.