Public Relations: The Journalist’s New Frontier (Part 2)

Today we bring you the second half of our guest story by  Orbit Media Studios founder and content marketing specialist Andy Crestodina (find him on Twitter and Google+). Click here to read the first half. 

Teaching: The New PR

In September I participated in a panel at Chicago Social Media Week and our moderator, Brian Burkhart of SquarePlanet Presentations, called me the king of “free beer.” While I’m not one to mooch free beers from people (though I do enjoy them), I do believe in giving away your knowledge and content—even your best stuff. That’s how you teach people.

Why give it away?

Because there is no business model that I’ve seen yet that gets people to pay for premium content. When people need an answer, they’re going to find it on Google because it’s just too easy, so when they search for answers I want them to find me and my company. (So do a lot of others.)

That’s the great opportunity for all the struggling journalists trying to figure out what’s next for them. They don’t have to sell their souls. They can write great content, in the form of blogs and website copy, that teaches people and helps them grow their businesses and improve their lives. Sounds like a noble profession, doesn’t it?

Oh, and unlike journalism, where writers are fighting for scraps, the content marketing world is growing very quickly.

Way back in 2011, Rosanna Fiske wrote a great piece on this trend for Poynter, the go-to site for journalism industry news. American newsrooms lost 8,333 reporters and editors in 2008 and 2009 alone, she wrote. Meanwhile, the public relations industry grew its revenue by 4 percent in 2008 and 3 percent in 2009 during the heart of the recession!

“Suddenly,” she wrote, “PR looked like a promising career for someone with great contacts and the ability to tell compelling stories.”

Getting Started As a Content Marketer

Fiske also pointed to a big problem that I hear from the same people who approach me after my speaking engagements: journalists often don’t know how to pitch their talents to clients. “How do I get started?” they ask.

  1. Get comfortable writing for the web: Dig in, study web best practices, and bone up on your SEO basics. You don’t need to be a pro (though it doesn’t hurt) but you’ll be much more valuable if you can write copy that’s optimized for search. Everyone in PR is writing now (or at least the smart ones are), which makes it more difficult to stick out. But this also makes great, insightful writers more valuable. If you don’t know how to write for the web, use my template.
  2. Get over your social media aversion: Newsrooms now are asking writers to promote their own work, to build their following, and to fill a secondary role. The PR world requires it. Content that is not promoted is a waste of time. (I’ll make it easy to get started, with 33 ways to promote your content.)

Take this advice, and if anyone ever figures out how to make news pay again, you’ll have tremendous new skills and audiences to bring to the table.