Why Reporters Need to Get Tight with Corporate Bloggers

If you watch the PR world, doubtless you’ve seen the “death of the press release” bandied about. Like many things (including newspapers), it’s been dying for a while. Like many things (in this case television), the actual final breath may take a while to reach. Nonetheless, the press releases is being usurped in some cases by the corporate blog, and this creates a new set of challenges for media outlets covering companies that have turned to this form of social media.

Press releases are straightforward tools. You write ‘em, you send ‘em out, you field interview requests, track pickups and so on. If you have a handful of preferred outlets, you’ll pop the release over to them early as a show of (some bizarre kind of) love. Let’s take the embargoed release out of the mix for a moment, and what is interesting is that the press release goes to everyone at the same time – well, everyone covered by the type of service you bought.

With a corporate blog, it’s a little different.

Sure, you get wide distribution. Once you press the “publish” button, the world will see what you have to say. In addition to the media covering your company, you’ll be communicating with other stakeholders, including clients and prospects, investors, regulators and anyone else who has a business-related interest in your company. It’s awfully efficient, which is why some corners of the PR world are positioning corporate blogs and other PR tools as alternatives to the press release … and the tools likely to supplant them.

I know, I know: there’s really little difference in the press release and blog/social media dynamics. In both cases, the entire world can see what you put out. Your press release will wind up on the web, meaning that company stakeholders will have access to it just about as fast as the media. All it takes is one Google search, and a potential client might even see your press release before a reporter who is likely to cover it.

And this is true, of course. Once it’s out on the web, it’s fair game. But, what happens when your client isn’t doing a search that would drive him to your recently pushed press release? The media gets it first, and the message you have put out will be changed at least somewhat in the writing/editing process (unless the press release is just slapped up as is).

When you publish to your corporate blog, however, you are reaching out to a core set of readers that is familiar with your brand. If you publish regularly, they are accustomed to coming back to learn more about certain issues and understand how your company can help them. The odds that your target market will see news released on your corporate blog, we can safely assume, are far higher than the odds that those same people will stumble into a recently published press release.

This is the problem that reporters face for companies with hefty doses of social media marketing savvy.

When a press release goes out, the media does have a shot at plucking it, writing it and posting it – and thus putting it in front of your (shared) target market. Especially in trade publications, this is quite important: it demonstrates an area of value for the publication. If the (shared) target market gets to the story on a corporate blog before it sees it in the press, there’s little reason to take a look at it in the press … unless considerably more effort is expended on the part of the reporter to gather up some quotes, turn it into a multi-company trend story, etc.

As far as the company announcement goes, though, the corporate blog makes the media a lot less useful.

There are two ways a reporter can remedy this, of course. The first is to write deeper and more profound stores using company news announced on a corporate blog. I say this understanding fully just how much work that is. No publication could survive by taking that route in today’s fast-moving news market. The other is to get out in front of the issue: reach out to corporate bloggers and the PR folks who work with them to get on the preferred lists and get content a few days in advance. Then, they’ll at least have a shot at adding some value relative to the original blog post without losing any time in the process.

Oh, and there’s a third: take advantage of the fact that many companies still haven’t gotten their social media marketing and PR initiatives off the ground yet, resulting in a comfortable rut that it will take years for them to extricate themselves from.

The press release is not dead yet, and it won’t be for a while. But, the rise of social media as a targeted and powerful tool for communicating directly with company stakeholders and disintermediating the press throws enough of a monkey wrench into the previous dynamic that it can’t be ignored. Especially where the companies with corporate blogs are those worth covering in a particular sector, reporters (and bloggers) will need to establish solid relationships with corporate bloggers to make sure they can be “fed” sufficiently. I’ve seen what happens when reporters are proactive about this, and the results are astounding – they get to market first and with a better product.

Corporate bloggers: why not help the media people you pitch and let them know about this. Offer to engage them more deeply. There’s a good chance you’ll benefit from richer coverage. Send this article to them with an invitation to go for a few drinks.

Reporters: don’t be shy. Ask to be placed on the “special lists,” and explain your reasoning. You aren’t just whoring yourself out to be first for the sake of winning (at least, that’s not what you’ll say). Rather, you’re merely trying to do your job in a changing marketplace.