Press Releases Lose Relevance

July 25, 2014 • Digital News, Public Relations • by

Traditional media has become less relevant to public relations professionals, according to a new survey of European communications specialists. Most respondents said they prefer to convey their message using mobile online channels or via direct contact with their stakeholders, rather than through traditional print newsrooms.

The survey, of 2777 PR experts in 42 European countries found that most (58 per cent) predict that traditional media will become even less relevant in the future. While three quarters (76 per cent) of those surveyed said that their relationship with print media was still important in 2014, less than half (42 per cent) thought print media would continue to be relevant to them by 2017.

The relevance of print media in public relations has declined since 2008, when an overwhelming majority of those surveyed said it was their most important tool. The survey results were reported in the European Communication Monitor, 2014, released in July. The research team, led by Professor Ansgar Zerfass (University of Leipzig) analysed the status quo, attitudes and trends among corporate communications professionals.

To interpret the survey results in the best possible way, the following can be stated: In the past PR experts relied on journalists because they believed journalism was more credible to audiences than a PR expert’s own advertising message. For this reason PR professionals tried to work closely with journalists and newsrooms, mainly through the use of press releases. As the quality of corporate communications improved, many newsrooms would simply copy and paste press releases instead of analyzing them critically, or adding value to them by own investigation.

Stories put out by the PR industry are usually one-sided, to favor paying clients. Unsurprisingly their widespread use by the media has eventually undermined the credibility of journalism. Now, even PR professionals consider the print media to be a less useful way to publicize their messages, preferring the direct approach of digital media.

In fact, many communications experts admit that they try to bypass journalists whenever possible. Still, reporters can sometimes cause problems for PR professionals. They may raise critical questions, or have their own ideas about what is useful and interesting for their readers. Alternatively corporate communicators can create publications and instrumentalize them for their own purpose – as the recent boom of corporate publishing demonstrates, in which Anglo Saxon as well as German media conglomerates are participating.

The European Communication Monitor is an annual survey into the European communications industry. It is sad that no similar monitor exists to observe and compare the development of journalism across Europe. Once again, Switzerland is ahead of other EU countries: since 2010, Kurt Imhof (University of Zurich) has annually presented a report on the quality of Swiss media (“Jahrbuch Qualität der Medien Schweiz“). Imhof’s report also documents, year by year, how the power balance between journalism and PR is changing in favor of communications management, this has made it unpopular with the media industry.

Original Publication: Der Taggespiegel July 21, 2014

Image: 2014 Report Cover

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