Ad Agencies Increasingly Pitching Consumers Directly

An unintended consequence of the decrease in news media outlets and the shrinking news holes of those that remain in business is that more and more public relations pitches are going directly to consumers.

“According to the website Paper Cuts, which tracks layoffs and buyouts at U.S. newspapers, nearly 30,000 reporters have left the industry since the beginning of 2008. So instead of pitching their stories to reporters, a growing number of marketers are directly engaging consumers through original content they and their agencies are creating,” Michael Bush writes in the October 26 issue of Ad Age.

Bypassing reporters was unthinkable when I started in PR in the mid-80s. You had to live with the journalists covering a particular beat or industry, and find a way to work with them even when they were hostile and biased. Opportunities to respond to inaccurate or distorted stories generally were very limited.

Now days, PR executives have tools such as company Web sites, blogs, PRWeb, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter to tell their stories without them being filtered through news media outlets.

As an example, Ad Age cites Coldwell Banker which, with the help of its PR firm Cooper Katz, launched a YouTube channel in May called Coldwell Banker on Location. David Siroty, Coldwell Banker Real Estate’s senior director for PR, explains how the company uses the channel to post educational videos about the housing market and purchase process as well as house listings:

“We can bypass the media and do videos from our CEO, brokers and agents talking about what first-time home buyers should do. You have a consumer that needs and wants to be re-educated on the nuances of housing. So we post the videos and drive traffic through social media.”

The channel launched with 300 videos and is now at 5,000 with just under 500,000 views.

While marketers such as Coldwell Banker are doing a great job of creating content and taking it to their audiences, this approach can’t provide the same level of credibility as a favorable news media article or the same reach as a national story during prime time.

Traditional media outlets will remain an important part of the PR mix for ad agencies and their clients – it’s just that they won’t dominate the way they used to.

Don Beehler provides public relations consulting services to small- and medium-sized advertising agencies and businesses.

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