New PR tactics in a new media world
In 2006, PR specialists were a spoilt bunch enjoying what may well have been the high point of PR history. The possibilities for free publicity were abundant, four free newspapers were published daily in the Netherlands and ‘old media’ newsrooms were at times staffed by hundreds of editors and journalists. This was a wonderful playing field for PR agencies, even for stories that did not rank very high in news value. A bit of research, a PR stunt, a press trip–the opportunities for generating cheap publicity were endless. Everybody happy!
And then the crisis hit. Print circulation was cut drastically and many titles did not even survive the onslaught. Many people are unfamiliar with older publications like De Pers, De Zaak, Fancy or even the more recent Jamie magazine. A new era of bloggers, vloggers and influencers dawned and the ethics regarding the boundaries between paid and editorial interests became blurred. This development was clearly noticeable in PR and new strategies for communication had to be defined.
3M’s for strong stories
The 3M-model is Glasnost’s answer to the new dynamic of the PR world and its corresponding business models. Our 3M’s offer a solution for most PR issues; they create strong stories and make content interesting from both an earned and paid publicity point of view. Here’s how:
M for Message
The starting point is the M for Message. This M determines the newsworthiness of any story and assigns it a type of media and an appropriate category. Trade media, for example, is interested in all news relating to certain brands, but it takes more than a product innovation or strategic partnership announcement to make the same information interesting on a national scale.
We employ a sliding scale for media newsworthiness, ranging from low to medium to high. The latter category consists of stories that are capable of generating national media attention using only traditional means, such as electric scooter sharing initiative felyx. Stories with a medium newsworthiness rating require an extra bit of effort to reach the next level. A good example is the joint campaign we ran with DDB for Vodafone regarding the road safety-improving SmartJacket. As Vodafone is not an authority on road safety, we linked the Dutch cyclist union (Fietsersbond) to the campaign in order to increase the news value from medium to high.
Other clients or products fall into the low newsworthiness category, such as many fast-moving consumer goods. The above two examples are interesting for respectively entrepreneurs or tech journalists, but new consumer products are a different story. Apart from a small number of shopping pages, no one highlights these products. So how do you get the Dutch media to talk about a new product? By employing the second M.
M for Moments
PR aims to hype up a brand or product in one of two ways. When the Message is strong, the true and tried tactic of giving non-competing journalists the scoop while imposing a press embargo is very effective.
- When the Message lacks strength (a regular occurence in proactive PR) the M for Moments comes into play. These are moments that journalists–or nowadays, influencers–want to be a part of. Call it priceless moments, if you will; MasterCard Moments. A good example of such a moment is the Zonnatura Zonnatura traditionally is the health food brand par excellence in the Netherlands, introduced a new type of granola in early 2018. That is interesting information for trade magazines like Distrifood, but not for many other publications. It needed something extra.
- Glasnost created a Moment by opening up a pop-up restaurant in the Amsterdam neighbourhood De Pijp. For three weeks, the restaurant served healthy granola-based breakfasts. The long opening of the pop-up ensured coverage by local newspapers like Parool, but also gave other media, as well as influencers, the chance to drop by and enjoy a granola breakfast bowl. The campaign was successful because our strategy had taken this Moment into account in its planning. The success was multiplied by also applying our third M.
M for Means
The Means that we refer to are the financial means that can ensure editorial interest. This implies Native Advertising in which paid ads match the look, feel and function of the media format in which they appear. This can be achieved on TV through programmes like RTL Boulevard, in newspapers like the free daily Metro, but it is mainly accomplished through blogs and online influencers. Even though the media outlets are paid for dispersing the information provided, a natural match between the media and the brand is desirable. Media should also have the freedom to write about topics or products that interest their followers.
The M for Means is applied in those cases where there is no broad news value, such as Dutch insurer Nationale Nederlanden’s mortgage calculator. The campaign focused on home financing options. Glasnost asked different media outlets to create their own meaning around the ‘dream or do’ campaign.
One platform published a listicle with ‘ten houses you’ve always wanted to own’ (such as a glass cube house on a Norwegian fjord), while another platform presented an in-depth article on the obstacles surrounding home financing. The campaign results indicated that this approach resulted in higher consumer engagement than did more ad-centred campaigns.
Making the 3M’s work–now and in the future
The 2006 glory days are gone for good. Nowadays, PR agencies are forced to be strategic in their efforts to generate the same amount of interest, no matter how small or large the project, brand or product. The proper 3M balance guarantees a path to success in the new media landscape. The media world is ever evolving and requires a continuously questioning mindset. Current methods and practices will be reassessed regularly to ensure the most effective PR approach for each of our clients.