Every year, the argument of how “PR firms are overrated” or “you don’t need a PR” firm float about due to an influencer who doesn’t see the results they anticipated or an article from the New York Times or Wall Street Journal. As the CEO of a large PR firm, I am not angered by these thoughts, but appreciate the discussions they foster.

Importance of Media Relations in 2014

As 2014 begins, we as media relations experts must continue to showcase our ability to lead the communications discussion and execution by understanding the following:

Crisis communications issues are magnified…

In the past, a company could have a botched order, an employee do something stupid, a big quarterly loss and other major dilemmas, then wait for them to blow over. Now, mostly due to the advent of the internet, crisis issues can destroy companies if they aren’t handled correctly.

It can begin as a blog post that is tweeted and seen by a small town reporter who writes an article that gets picked up by a wire services and the next think you know, BOOM – a horrible story about your company is on the front page of the Huffington Post and your competitors are stealing your clients and customers.

So, what role can media relations experts play? They can navigate these waters by speaking with the blogger and getting the post revised, or maybe they can jump on the phone with the small town reporter and explain where the blog post erred in its reporting and why it’s NOT a story.

Someone without a communications background may be ill-equipped professionally to tackle these issues. 

Everyone is a reporter…

Literally. Because we all have blogs, Facebook pages, Twitter handles, LinkedIn profiles and more – companies need to tread lightly around sensitive issues, yet be aggressive in their promotion of positive ones.

Understanding the correct bloggers to reach out to, introductions to make at conferences or trade shows, and who to respectfully stay away from, are not skills learned overnight. I cannot state enough the importance of crafting smart messaging and delivering that message to the correct people.

The companies that adhere to the “any publicity is good publicity” adage are often found to outsiders to have inconsistent messaging and confusing company structure – often times resulting in missed stories that should have been big, or small, negative stories that should have been killed.

Being able to discern between an opportunity and a pitfall, are two consequences any media relations expert can identify. 

But influential print/radio/TV reporters are dwindling…

While it is true that everyone and their neighbor is a reporter, the truly influential traditional reporters are dwindling. Yes, your parents are not crazy – many people do still read the New York Times, Rolling Stone, Entrepreneur and Wall Street Journal cover to cover – and not on their Kindle.

There are no exceptions, EVERY industry has at least four or five reporters who all the experts, bloggers, specialists, etc. take their cues from. Knowing who these influencers are and having the relationship to make introductions and generate coverage that moves the needle is the chief reason many companies hire a public relations firm.

SEO is of high-importance…

This should come as a shock to no one. An entire industry has been built around search engine optimization and online reputation management, and the connection between it and public relations cannot be ignored. Having online media results rank very highly, and when these reflect company messaging or are a ringing endorsement of you or your company, those results will not go unnoticed – especially when they are drafted by 3rd party members of the media.

Prospective buyers, clients, partners, etc. do perform due diligence, and having the online reputation to support your business is what makes the difference between an incoming lead or a phone that doesn’t ring. Just as important, is having the volume of online content to battle negative reviews, false stories, and other content deemed detrimental to ones brand.

These objectives can all be met by having a media relations team in place to build out positive online search results filled media coverage. 

Content marketing both requires and creates a need for PR. 

Yes, even in 2014, people still use brochures and one-pagers for marketing. They also use, now more than ever, webinars, white-papers, video, and e-mail marketing – all tools most marketers keep in their work belt.

One, public relations outreach is often what drives people to download, sign up, request more information, etc. for content marketing tools. Most importantly, once that e-mail address is captured or that trade show is booked – something needs to be delivered. Again, this is where media articles, videos and sound bytes can best be utilized.

Rather than sending out a blast telling your prospective leads how great your company is, you can send out that same blast with the a Forbes article  doing the telling for you. Public relations experts know that media results speak for themselves – use these to get results from your marketing practices.