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This post was written originally for SpinSucks and appeared on their site on June 25, 2012.  Reposted here on HMATime for our loyal readers.

I’ve been doing public relations a very long time.  Since 6th grade, actually, when I helped organize a picket in front of the elementary school to protest the administration taking away our graduation dance (we got it back, by the way). But with a degree and an actual job description? Since the late ‘80s.

My first title was “publicity coordinator” because in truth, that’s really all we were concerned about back then.  We wanted publicity for our events, our clients, our companies, etc. And we got that publicity by writing press releases. Yes, I called them press releases back then, although my team knows that’s now one of my pet peeves—news release is now more appropriate. And I wrote dozens and dozens of them.  Nice, relatively creative one-page documents, in proper AP-style that were copied, collated, stapled and placed into folders and magically became a press kit.  These press kits needed to be done at least three weeks in advance of when you wanted news coverage because you actually put them in the mail and sent them to a gigantic list of media. The media list was made up primarily of editors and assignment managers-hardly ever did it include a reporter, that’s how we did it back then.

And then we waited.  Waited for said editor to think my press kit was so compelling that he/she couldn’t help but assign a reporter to the story.  And then the reporter would call and off we’d go, coordinating interviews.  We were a success – publicity had happened!

Oh the good old days…or were they?  Today, we may cringe at the term publicity. What we do is much more strategic.  We don’t just seek publicity, but rather well-placed stories in media outlets that include our key messages.  We still write releases but very rarely are they mass-produced and distributed to those gigantic media lists. And more importantly, we have relationships with reporters, editors, freelancers, photographers, videographers, etc.payday loans onlinethat we work with daily to help get those stories told.

And over the past several years, with the increase in online/digital media, we now have access to another type of media opportunity – user-generated sites (or UGS as we like to call them.)  These UGS are online media outlets where you have the ability to post directly your news and photos.  In many cases, an editor still approves your content prior to posting to ensure that it is indeed “news” and not simply an advertorial disguised as news.

I was in a meeting a week or so ago with the now-retired general manager of the Arizona Republic’s community sections.  He indicated that the “news by you” section of the paper, which appears both online and in the print version, is one of most highly read sections of the paper.  According to him, there are so many great community organizations, events and programs going on that aren’t getting assigned because the newsrooms are understaffed.  By offering the ability to post directly, the paper can still share the information without the need to assign staff. Perhaps one of the most prevalent examples of user-generated content are event calendars --  nearly all online pubs have an online event submission form that automatically updates the site’s calendar.

We are seeing more and more of the “traditional” media outlets offering these opportunities for local news and there are several online media outlets that rely solely on submitted content.  Some examples include Yahoo!Voices, CNN iReport (yes, that CNN), Third Report or All Voices.  Most allow photos or video as well.

These UGS do not replace the need for a well-written pitch, strategic key messages and strong relationships with the reporters that cover your industry.  But they are something to consider as you create your public relations plans.

Abbie S. Fink
Abbie S. Fink
Vice President/General Manager Abbie has been doing public relations her whole life…from organizing a picket line in 6th grade to organizing client communications today. She’s passionate about a lot of things, you’ll see. Check out Abbie's full bio

2 Comments

  1. These are great tools for PR professionals and others responsible for sharing news. Highly searchable, too.