Content: the new horizon of media relations
Media relations have changed radically in recent years. One reason for this is the impact on agencies of the profound changes that the media have undergone over the past decade, changes that question the role of the agency.
Until recently, the agency was seen as an essential intermediary between a company and the media, with only the latter in direct contact with a company’s various audiences. A major part of its legitimacy was based on this role.
But the rise of digital spaces of influence has undermined this model. On the one hand, journalists now face deafening competition from a myriad of influencers who are rapidly becoming ubiquitous. This loss of the monopoly on information is all the more brutal as it goes hand in hand with an economic weakening of the traditional media that forces them to redefine their own model. On the other hand, Google and social media make journalists, the new influencers and all various corporate audiences easily identifiable, describable and accessible to all. The question of the journalist’s place echoes the challenge to the role of media relations, where digitalisation devalues one of the industry’s main arguments: proximity to journalists, the value of an address book, the ability to connect seemingly disparate audiences.
This change is certainly not limited to media relations. It should be seen in the more general context of the intermediation crisis, of which it is only a manifestation. It is similar to the questions raised in many other sectors whose role, which consists in matching supply and demand, is undermined by the rise of marketplaces (real estate transactions, brokerage, wholesalers…).
The added value of media relations has shifted.
A shift in the value proposition of agencies
The added value of press relations has likewise shifted. It lies less in distributing to a base of journalists—however qualified—a proprietary newsflow rendered less audible due to hyper-saturated communication spaces, than it does in showcasing an expertise and strengthening a positioning or inflecting an influence. It consists as much in disseminating press releases through traditional channels (mail blasts, followed by targeted telephone follow-up) as in being immersed in and interacting with the areas influencers oversee (blog posting, community management, etc.). More qualitative than quantitative, less unilateral than horizontal, the role of agencies now consists in rising above the ambient noise by emitting a differentiating, powerful discourse that defies devaluation.
How? By reconciling two tasks that are different or even contradictory in nature. That of journalists, whose work now consists more in enlightening than informing, and that of the company, whose communication addresses specific strategic issues and timelines. The material that reconciles these two logics is content, and the agency must find the points at which an offer (from the company) meets a demand (from the media). In addition to dissemination, the added value of agencies thus resides above all in the ability to shape information by interpreting it, giving it meaning and making it useful for journalists. This is a particularly significant observation for B2B service providers with high added value (IT services companies, consulting firms, corporate law firms, etc.), as the dearth of newsflow marketing and corporate deprives them of captive material to communicate.
Agencies called upon to remake themselves
For all these reasons, agencies are changing. To produce short-cycle content adapted both to the needs of clients and to the agenda of journalists, they are led to adopt methods similar to those of the media, whose qualities must possess (responsiveness, analytical capacity…), a role (press representatives becomes the editor-in-chief for their clients), as well as similar organisational frameworks (daily monitoring of current events, editorial conferences with clients…). This shift also pushing an increasing number of journalists to join media relations agencies, whose value proposition they are shifting and redesigning.
This metamorphosis did not take place overnight. Content has long been at the heart of press relations strategies in various forms. But the digitalisation of communication spaces gives it an unprecedented keenness, urgency and weight. Not just the future, but the very survival of agencies hangs in the balance.
es, whose value proposition they are shifting and redesigning.
This metamorphosis did not take place overnight. Content has long been at the heart of press relations strategies in various forms. But the digitalisation of communication spaces gives it an unprecedented keenness, urgency and weight. Not just the form, but the very survival of agencies hangs in the balance.