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Five PR tools that still matter

Digital PR is the seductive new kid on the block. In the middle of all that fast paced fervour of a new relationship, it is easy to forget the basic tools of PR that still matter and can get you great results with a bit of tweaking for the age of PR in a hurry.

Let’s drive straight in and hear what the PR practioners have to say.

1. The press release is dead. Long live the press release!

For some time now PR gurus have been declaring the demise of that PR staple, the press release. So, is the media release dead? “No, media releases will exist. Even digital PR will require the information that is disseminated through a media release”, says Kalyan S. Bose, Vice President and Head – Corporate Communications, Indian Commodity Exchange.

What has happened though is that the releases are short, snappy, and not more than a page; in keeping with the changing times. Experts also recommend building on the basic press release and including regular written email alerts.  “Companies need to send out regular alerts and information to keep the journalist educated and unravel complex information for them. Sometime organisations can end up sending over a 100 such alerts through the year, packed with easy to read comments and analysis.” comments Vandana Chopra, Director of Marketing & Communications at tax consultancy firm BMR Advisors Pvt Ltd.

2. Sharing information on a one to one with reporters

TV reporters in the late 1990s, covering some of the ministries in India, soon discovered that the real news was communicated after the formal press conference, at the so called “deep background “briefing for those reporters who were smart enough to figure this out. The one to one background briefing for a reporter is still an invaluable tool to build relationships with key reporters.

Says Chopra, “It’s important to build a relationship with journalists, to talk to them and share information, information is always at a premium. You can’t just bank on press releases; it’s the whole strategy that matters. And in a crisis it’s the time spent in meeting and talking to reporters; whether one to one or in background briefing groups, which will help you get their attention.” Adds Bose, “Media releases, media conferences, background briefs, one to one interviews, media visits are all typical PR tips that may belong to the old school of PR but retains its relevance even in the digital age. One cannot wish away these tools even in the time of tweets and blogs.” 

3. It’s about reading the news

The importance of reading newspapers cannot be overemphasised. There is an epidemic of PR professionals not making a habit of reading the news from several sources. PR insiders say that they often refuse to hire potential candidates for corporate PR that give the stock answer of reading the Economic Times. Vandana Chopra strongly recommends developing a reading habit; “This is one of the key things that is missing in many young PR professionals today. Reading the news is very helpful as it gives you crucial cues as to what the journalist is focusing on, what they are interested  in and allows you to understand better the kind of story that will appeal to them."

4. The editorial board address

Getting key people to address the editorial board of newspapers and television stations is still one of the best ways to build a high level, strategic dialogue that can help shape opinion. While this requires giving an industry snapshot as will, it is an invaluable, old school way to communicate complex messaging that cannot fit in the 140 characters of a standard tweet! 

5. Ethics rule

This may seem like a no-brainer, but is one of the main keys for effective and long term PR in these rushed times. While strictly speaking not a PR communications tool, this forms the basis of a strong relationship between the PR professional and the journalist. “It’s critical to be ethical with both the client and the media. Be simple and truthful. If you try to appease both the media and the client too much you will lose the trust of both. Share the correct information and be upfront about what you cannot comment on”, advises Chopra.

At the end of the day, social media, if anything, has made old school PR even more important. All these older tools need is a technology makeover. Says, Bose,” media releases can be disseminated through PR wire agencies to cover almost the entire universe. Media conferences can be podcasted and, through video conference, can be seen at all relevant places."

It’s too early to call the game yet but old school PR definitely still matters!

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