TECH TRENDS TO STRENGTHEN PR, MEDIA BOND by Ronn Torossian

TECH TRENDS TO STRENGTHEN PR, MEDIA BOND

June 7, 2010

 

By Ronn Torossian

 

AT&T’s move on data pricing and Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ commitment to monetize content will strengthen the marriage bond between PR and media. 

The sum of both requires some real thinking on traditional PR and how messages are communicated.

If you thought AT&T’s timing for coming out with their cancellation of the unlimited data plan was arbitrary, you can’t be more mistaken. Just the previous day during Wall Street Journal’s All Things Digital Conference in California,  Jobs clearly stated that he’s strongly passionate and confident about Apple’s role in turning online content to a service-for-fee.

Combine the two trends in our content world, and what you get is the change not only in telecom, content and the journalism arenas – but also in the communications and PR world, where we will gain even more authority. I would argue that in the near-future PR firms would need to adapt to even more sophisticated ways of reaching publics who will become hesitant and selective of their content providers.

The PR helm will be taken back in full from the hands of novice individuals (i.e. bloggers), back to strategic planners.

In his talk to a content-thirsty audience, Jobs said he was concerned we were almost turning to “a nation of bloggers” and that in his opinion “we need editorial oversight now more than ever. Anything we can do to help newspapers find new ways of expression that will help them get paid, I am all for.”

Here is my “two cents” of analysis to the new double-tactic around content: on the one hand I agree with AT&T which states in their late-clarifying press releases that more subscribers will join the new data plans since the entry price would be as low as $15 for 200MB as opposed to the unlimited plan today charging double. 

In contrast, those who are used to getting their content, information, and interaction with the world via online content will not settle for entry level. They will go with the 2GB and up, reaching high volume of browsing and potentially high rates – which will lead to the creation of very selective content consumers.

What are the practical implications? Consider today’s very active consumer: he constantly checks social media accounts over any mobile device and gets push-based news items of her choice.  Each of the above channels them to second and third party links, pages, videos and images. Would you give up on half the fun?

In the media world, the last three years have brought major transitions to the pace and communication pipes over which messages disseminate to publics, and back.  PR firms have pitched the media with the most innovative channels including social media for reputation management purposes, crisis management, and of course strategic branding and communications with publics. This includes consumer, corporate, and fashion companies concerned with their online presence.

The PR dance with the media over the “online floor” which now will require a fee, -in addition to the fact that access is paid for- sets a high bar for content quality, reliability and credibility.

On the other end with 57.1 million mobile subscribers in the U.S, taking a data “free lunch” off the menu will create a huge population holding on to very smart and advanced devices which allow high capacities of data to stream up and down when necessary. In fact, the trend benefits mobile devices manufacturers and service providers since the content consumer is deserting his desktop at home and relying on multiple mobile solutions such as a BlackBerry, iPad, iPhone and notebooks.

What does it require from PR & media pros? First, the realization that content is profit-sensitive. With advanced phones all around wireless carriers have seen $41.5 billion in revenue just from data use in 2009. And this will grow with the new data plans. Content vehicles such as online news sites will be extra careful and more committed to quality and credibility with the information they choose to offer subscribers. Not everyone is a subscriber, nor is every info valuable enough to be offered for a fee.

On the upside, we will witness better monitoring and profiling of target audiences which adapt to the new way of getting news, info and online access. Today, we find it more difficult to know exactly what the profile of online readers of New York Times online is. With paid content structures, the Times will make sure to get accurate subscriber data, which can allow a customization of the news items offered to these demographics. See it as a “you pay – you decide what you want to read” type of arrangement.

Public relations processes will become more sophisticated so a story can be pitched to the right outlet, for the right key publics, with a better measurement of effective results on placements.

To that end, I project that news and content websites will adapt quickly and begin a process of selection of what goes online and what doesn’t. Media & PR strengthen their bond in search for quality, reliable, clarifying content on both streams between the audience and their input sent back. Ultimately, media focuses and offers its receivers content people specifically want and at almost harmonically PR will make sure to well tailor its pitches accordingly in service of all parties: clients, media and target audience.

A good PR manager who wishes to do it all for his client will make sure to get that story out there in a smart weighed manner which reflects the latest spin on 21st century journalism. After all, PR and journalism feed each other in a sense, and good PR adapts fast.

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Ronn Torossian is founder and CEO of NYC-based 5W Public Relations, a top 25 independent PR firm. He is on Twitter at @rtorossian5wpr and can be reached at rtorossian [at] 5wpr.com.

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