The world of news releases and public relations is in the midst of a major transformation, the likes of which PR and journalism have never experienced.
Change scares people. We like things the way they were yesterday, last year, a decade ago. Same goes for PR. But with change comes opportunity, and those of us in the vanguard of the PR business are deploying PR 2.0, a newfangled strategy that really isn't so new (or even "fangled") when one really analyzes it.
That's because in PR, content is king. Was then. Is today. To be relevant (and thus influential) with your audience, your content must address a need. When your content is relevant, it is read. And when it is read, it causes a desirable reaction.
In the old days of PR, editors were the front line of the reader audience. PR pros' mission was to persuade editors to read their news releases. If the releases were relevant, journalists recognized their news value.
A newsy news release resulted in an article printed in a newspaper or magazine, where tens of thousands of readers had the opportunity to view the PR pro's story in all of its glory. Such coverage caused readers to engage in some fashion with the PR pros' clients.
So the traditional news release, when crafted compellingly, persuaded journalists to run with the stories that in turn engaged the readers. Mission accomplished.
Fast forward to 2009. The world of journalism has changed dramatically. Traditional print and even broadcast media are less relevant in our society.
You know the reason. It's the Internet. Those who wish to know what President Obama said at noon today no longer wait for the traditional media to pick up the story. We check the Internet.
What's more, an engineer doesn't have to go to the library for papers about petrochemical breakthroughs or the structural properties of reinforced, pre-stressed concrete. Instead, that engineer goes to Google.
And a mom who wants to find a heart-healthy recipe doesn't dig into her pile of Good Housekeepings or scan Wednesday's newspaper. She "googles" and in the blink of an eye she has a dozen options no matter how specific her search term.
You, I, our children and even our grandparents have become conditioned to getting the information we want with the click of a mouse. Google, in essence, is our world's news editor.
As traditional media wane, the new online media outlets are multiplying like bunnies. And those new media provide enormous access opportunities for anybody who wishes to publish anything. Got news about ways to make reinforced concrete better? Got advice for those who wish to make "heart-healthy" taste better? Get it on the Internet.
So what about this newfangled strategy we call PR 2.0?
PR 2.0 is about getting clients' information published where today's readers are looking: online - boldly, broadly, and highly visible to the all-important search engines. The new media world, where editors no longer make all of the decisions about what gets published, provides unfettered access for those who wish to share their information with audiences important to their success.
When traditional media ruled, a news release might have been picked up in a handful of newspapers or magazines. In today's PR 2.0 world, that same article will almost certainly be published in literally thousands of online media.
Even as PR and journalism continue evolving, content is still king.
To score big, today's PR 2.0 article must be crafted with the search engines in mind. PR pros today must carefully research their intended audiences, not just to know what they want to know, but also to identify the best search terms, and then write their releases to be relevant factually and to the Web spiders.
A well-turned phrase still counts plenty in getting readers' attention. Once the search engines find and deliver the news release, the writing must engage the reader and take them to the essence of the article's message.
And articles that make it online in the world of PR 2.0 enjoy a longer lifetime than their ancestor releases. Ten years ago and more, clients' articles enjoyed a day or two in the limelight. Then the story went to the bottom of the bird cage or the kitchen floor to absorb whatever the canary or puppy dropped or dribbled.
That same news release in 2009 will live a hundred days or more, and be available to the eyes of literally millions of readers every minute, hour, day, and month that it remains relevant.
It's an exciting place, this world of PR 2.0. It's fast and it's full of promise for those of us in the public relations industry. All of which underscores the certainty that, indeed, the world of PR 3.0 is probably closer than we can imagine.