Why content is king and Media Relations the immortal dinosaur

If you are a communications manager your managerial tasks include analyzing future potentials. In doing so, you will inevitably discover that, in a mid- to long-term perspective, content creation is more valuable than traditional media relations. 

Market Development

The reason for this assessment is simple: when it comes down to market potentials, the high-level editorial media market is overwhelmingly saturated. It has been decreasing in recent years and will continue to do so. By contrast, the content market is an ever-evolving, limitless market. Consequently, your efforts to conquer a significant share in the high-level editorial media market are x-times higher than creating a share in the high-quality content market. 

Consequences

Viewed against this development, your investments in a necessary, but highly volatile market (editorial coverage is never predictable) should be counter-balanced by even higher investments in a partially controllable market (content). 

This is not to say that media relations are obsolete. They most certainly are not! You need media coverage and, thus, convincing stories for media to give your customers and stakeholders that extra re-assurance they need to trust in your brand. 

Productive media relations are as precious as ever. And you know why: in every phase of the customer journey, consumers are looking for validation for your marketing messages, and media coverage is still a valuable asset in this sense. Every article featured in relevant media adds to your credibility. 

However, the PR-media relationship in German-speaking markets has become tough in recent years, due to the downsizing of in-house editorial staff. In-house editors have been replaced by content-feeding editing centers of publishers that own a variety of media, or paid services of news wires who have contracted editorial space in media. 

A condensed number of media contacts means that there is limited editorial space in media, which translates into limited potential for placing stories, without additional costs. And the effort it takes to get a fair amount of coverage is significantly higher than in the golden years of fruitful media relations when you could establish and maintain a dialogue with editors. 

How to deal with developments

For the PR manager, this development has been difficult to deal with, as successfully pitching your stories (for free) to your trusted (local / topical) media contacts for specific topics has become a lot more difficult. Quite a few times in recent years, I have personally been told by editors that the story I was pitching, while not uninteresting, needed to be discussed with the marketing department of their media. So, instead of just saying that they will not report on your story, some editors even try to hook you up with their sales department. 

That, dear media, is the death sentence for your plans to keep afloat. For, the less variety you have in your original reporting on actual news, i.e. newcomers and alternatives to established thoughts and products, the less interesting and relevant you become to your desired audience. Believe me, I’m a marketer. 

Surveys, like the State of the Media Report 2020, show that the number of consumers that trust media reporting on brands and products has been continuously low in recent years. One of the reasons is certainly the perception that the content traditional media offer has been “mainstreamed” and doesn’t offer anything new.

Diversity is the spice of life and the more you report on the same brands and ignore the alternatives -yes, perhaps these alternatives are not at the same high level of established brands but nevertheless they are an alternative consumers/your audience should be familiarized with-, the lower your credibility becomes. And hasn’t it always been interesting to observe the development of newcomers against that of the establishment? 

To make things worse, publishers are highlighting their “advertorials” offer. Yes, this paid content form will give you visibility in important media. But this form of article, which is always branded as paid or sponsored content, is the worst form of reporting you can ever opt for: it tells your audience that you didn’t have the money for creating an original ad and underlines the fact that your story was not worthy of reporting. 

Now, if you need to pay for awareness, then you might as well place ads in the media. Ads look a lot nicer and they tell the consumer that you have sufficient marketing budget to pay creatives: an indicator for the financial solidity of your brand and your willingness to inform consumers on your offer. 

But if you want to tell a story, don’t choose an advertorial in publications. On your own channels, you can tell it more effectively, using your own messages with no limits to space or categories. And then post about your articles. And if you do it convincingly, you will attract consumers. This is what content marketing is all about.

Content marketing provides you with the opportunity to create and feed your own channels. With the very messages you want to disseminate, be it directly through marketing-relevant articles, or via a more subtle form of multiplier marketing. In 2020, content creation and distribution should be the core of your communication structure. 

Yes, you need to pay for some of your trust-building content. But with a good mix of original and paid content, you can limit the costs. And with an emphasis on content creation and distribution, your communication ROI will be significantly higher than with the traditional media relations centric approach to trust-building communication. 

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Author: Joe Wiedemann
Joe Wiedemann is a partner of BLACK DOLPHIN, a communications consultancy in Germany, Austria and UK. He is specialized in communication strategy, brand development, content management & creation, PR, and large network coordination. Joe joined the Black Dolphin collaborative as a Vienna-based communication expert with 20+ years of successfully advising SMEs, startups, and internationals. Joe has worked for agencies, like Edelman, and has held global PR management positions at Deutsche Post/DHL Express, Hyundai Motor, and Borgward Group AG.