Are PROs only talking to newspapers because they still don’t understand digital?

The days when PROs spent all their time desperately trying to get their brands mentioned in print are over. Or are they? It seems many PROs still believe that the most influential place to be seen is in a printed publication, and that online just isn’t the same.

Joanne Milory, partner at PR firm Eloqui, says she is often surprised about how much emphasis there still is on print media. She believes the main reason for this is because print is still overvalued amongst key influencers, for example, high-profile media and political figures. This means that for a PRO, print is still THE place to be. However, Milory says that print media may soon only get the attention it merits. She explains: “The sands are shifting and in certain topic areas, online is already the dominant force – such as in technology, and I think, environmental stories.” Milroy also points out that the importance of print depends on the story and its target audience: “For under 25 year olds, forget print, but if you are talking to senior political figures or CEOs (in other words, an older audience) there needs to be more emphasis on it.”

Milroy’s own consumption of print media reflects how many of us are changing the way we use newspapers and trade publications. She says: “I still read print newspapers and wouldn’t want to give them up. But I do consume them in a different way these days. I get headline and breaking news from the web – then scan the papers for follow-up features and comment.”

Training is lacking

PROs may still focus on print media, not because they don’t recognise the growing influence of online media, but simply because they are used to print, and haven’t learnt how to use online tools. Pamela Lyddon, founder of agency Bright Star Digital, says that many PROs are not getting the online training they need. She adds: There is so much change going on in the industry that I think PROs feel overwhelmed.” Lyddon also believes that many are pressurised by their clients to focus on print, as this is where they still want to see their names. Therefore, it is up to their PR advisers to convince them about the value of online mentions: “Once PROs understand digital media, they are able to educate their clients to do something different. I think that both PROs and clients are unaware that print is essentially a dying medium – everything is going online and with all the different platforms print is just not as powerful as it once was.”

Not everyone agrees that print is dying, but claim that both print and online strategies have their place. Crispin Manners, CEO at loyalty and word-of-mouth consultancy Onva, says that although there is a lot of talk about the rise of social media and the need for PR professionals to switch attention away from print media, in his view, it’s not about leaving print media behind, rather it’s about adding social media to the mix. He says: “All organisations need to add a social media communications strategy. The fundamental shift isn’t one of the media channel, however, it is a shift to greater contact with audiences.” Manners claims that social media presents an opportunity for organisations to engage in conversations with customers and influencers alike.

Working with, not against

Chris Measures, joint head of technology practice at communications consultancy Speed, agrees with Manners that PROs shouldn’t ditch print media strategies, just because digital media are in vogue. Nor should those who prefer print media ignore online. He explains: “Even now, there are plenty of PROs who turn their noses up at online and digital. Equally, there are digital evangelists who won’t sully their keyboards by targeting anything made from dead trees. Both are wrong – as PROs we need to follow our audiences as the media landscape is changing rapidly. People now get their information from a whole mix of sources – online, offline, digital, radio and TV.” Like Bright Star Digital’s Lyddon, Measures calls for PROs to learn the skills they need to maximise new media potential. He says: “PROs need to adapt, learn new skills and techniques, or they’ll ultimately end up marginalised and out of a job.”