Leaner staffs, fewer journalists in the newsrooms, and a growing suspicion regarding the integrity of earned media have placed the PR profession in potential peril. But today’s guest, Bridgette Borst Ombres, remains optimistic about media relations. Some things have not changed in the profession, she says, including the ongoing challenge of attribution and measurement. But join us, as we explore what has changed in media relations including AI, the rise of live audio, niche publications, and paywall journalism.
Cyndi Greenglass: Would you define what media relations is today?
Bridgette Borst Ombres: It's developing relationships with editors and journalists, cultivating media, TV, magazine, print, podcast relationships on behalf of a brand. The goal behind it all is to communicate the brand story.
Ruth Stevens: What are some of the trends that you're seeing in media relations?
Bridgette Borst Ombres: The number one trend in my view is that it is getting harder to secure earned media coverage, largely due to smaller editorial teams. Those who are winning at media relations right now are usually specialized or they're becoming a bit more niche, so instead of doing let's say financial PR, that's a somewhat general term, you might start seeing more people position themselves as a banking PR expert or crypto PR expert. Depth over breadth is something I’m seeing now more than ever. There are leaner staffs in these newsrooms, and they're expected to produce much more content. Some journalists are trying to make money outside of being paid by traditional media outlets, so they’ve started subscription newsletters or podcasts.
Ruth Stevens: What's still the same in media relations? Are some of the principles still with us?
Bridgette Borst Ombres: Stories that connect back to serving the public good and public interest are sorely needed. That's an element that I don't think is changing. Video has been a major trend, and we’re seeing a little bit more emphasis on things like TikTok and Insta reels right now because they are new ways for journalists to practice storytelling and connect with audiences. What hasn’t changed is doing your homework and taking the time to read and follow the stories.
Cyndi Greenglass: Are we blending or disguising advertising as news? Is earned media still as powerful as it was?
Bridgette Borst Ombres: We have seen an acceleration of the line blurring between earned and paid media, especially this past year because advertising and other sources of revenue plummeted. I read a great piece in PR week just a few weeks ago that examined whether the value of earned media is diminishing. The line of thinking was that the market accepts this increased in sponsored content as long as the content is clearly labeled as such. If news organizations aren't vetting content appropriately, or if they're running too much paid media I think they run the risk of losing credibility. Despite the nation's love hate relationship with the media, a year-long Pew research study supports that earned media is still a powerful third party.
Cyndi Greenglass: Can you provide some examples of how we're measuring PR? Are we moving away from outputs and moving more towards outcomes, as we are in other media?
Bridgette Borst Ombres: There's a lack of unified measurement, but in my experience, there are two main ways to measure the value of our work. One is output and then outcomes. When I talk about output, I'm still seeing folks measure their impact by output metrics such as number of messages that they're getting or the number of mentions. By looking at the number of impressions, you can round up metrics like circulation numbers for newspapers and magazines and get audience data for TV programs. For blog posts and online media, there are a ton of services out there that calculate those measurements for you. I also like to combine the output measurements with the outcome because that's where you get into message analysis as a brand. Are your key messages penetrating within these stories, do you see your keywords and products reflected within these stories? That's message effectiveness. A colleague of mine placed a story about a technology product in the New York Times, and then a big fortune 50 company called their office and was interested in licensing it.
Ruth Stevens: What are some of your predictions about where we're all going with media relations?
Bridgette Borst Ombres: When I think about the future of PR, I think about technologies that make PR more efficient and more effective. Platforms like CoverageBook are going to be popping up more—platforms that take media coverage and make reports faster and prettier. We're already using services that allow you to respond to reporters who are asking for sources on a wide range of topics, so you know there's no digging involved from your perspective, these are inquiries that come straight to your inbox that you can respond to. There’s going to be lots of different media monitoring technologies and tools. One I'm really excited about is OnePitch. It's new, and it's free. All you do is upload a media pitch or a sample pitch and the technology shows you best matches for journalists based on the topics that they cover and they give you.
Key Takeaways/Three Little Piggies
- More specialization is the key direction that media relations professionals need to take because that's where their audience is going as well.
- There's still work to be done as a profession in the area of measurement and metrics. There seems to be a lack of unified metrics that are agreed upon broadly.
- There is a potential that consumers and business people are losing trust in earned media.
Marketing Communications Today presents Horizons, it’s forward-thinking, looking ahead, through the front windshield and beyond, into the marketing future. Join Cyndi and Ruth bi-weekly for new ideas, technologies, tools and strategies that are emerging to help marketers navigate over the marketing horizon.
Meet our guest
Bridgette Borst Ombres is a former TV news reporter turned PR and marketing professional with nearly 15 years’ experience working in communications across agency, corporate and nonprofit. Bridgette has media trained more than 350 spokespeople for organizations around the country and has consulted for brands such as Google, LG, Angry Birds, Vestas, Boy Scouts of America and Earth Day Network.
Bridgette heads up The Commsultant, a boutique PR agency specializing in communications planning, thought leadership and media strategy.
Through the years, Bridgette has worked to place hundreds of students and young professionals in internships and jobs. She is passionate about mentoring and professional development.
Based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Bridgette lives with her husband, David and four-year-old daughter, Brielle.
Meet the hosts
Cyndi W. Greenglass is a founding partner and president at Livingston Strategies, a data-informed, strategic consulting firm that helps clients develop, execute, and measure their customer communications with a close focus on results. Cyndi has razor-sharp strategic skills matched by impeccable on-the-ground savvy and tactical abilities. She is an Adjunct Instructor in the Data Marketing Communications online master's degree program from WVU.
Greenglass has twice been named into the Top 100 Influential BTB Marketers by Crain’s BtoB Magazine and was the 2012 CADM Chicago Direct Marketer of the Year. She is a member of the Board of Advisors for BRAND United and has taught, trained and presented at over 50 conferences throughout the world.
Ruth P. Stevens consults on customer acquisition and retention, for business-to-business clients. Ruth serves on the boards of directors of the HIMMS Media Group, and the Business Information Industry Association. She is a trustee of Princeton-In-Asia, past chair of the Business-to-Business Council of the DMA, and past president of the Direct Marketing Club of New York.
Ruth was named one of the 100 Most Influential People in Business Marketing by Crain’s BtoB magazine, and one of 20 Women to Watch by the Sales Lead Management Association. She serves as a mentor to fledgling companies at the ERA business accelerator in New York City.
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