Why Businesses Should Keep Talking to the Media

Despite the relentless challenges facing both traditional and emerging news outlets, the media remains a powerful and credible communications vehicle – particularly among the stakeholders that business-to-business organizations seek to influence. At Greentarget we see it every day, and it’s borne out in our latest research.

So we were disheartened to read a recent report in the Washington Post. Reporter Stephen Pearlstein theorizes that corporate media relations is broken and that the business community no longer relies on traditional media as a credible resource. Spurred by the C-suite’s mistrust in traditional media, Pearlstein notes “even the prospect of a positive story can’t crack open the door to the executive suite.”

More from Pearlstein:

“The prevailing attitude is now that everything is about data and social media and identifying the people they can reach by going over the heads of the established media,” one top public relations executive told me.

Traditional Media Still Matters

But our data tells a very different story. Greentarget’s 2018 State of Digital & Content Marketing Survey shows that 54 percent of in-house counsel surveyed go to traditional media (e.g., The Wall Street Journal) each day for legal, business and industry news and information, and 45 percent find such sources very valuable – far above any other source. And Greentarget’s new survey of C-suite executives, the State of Digital & Content Marketing Survey – Professional Services found that more than half of those executives get their content from traditional media every day, and 75 percent find it very valuable content for business and industry news and information.

In addition, CMO respondents to Nielsen’s 2018 Chief Marketing Officer Report see traditional media as an important channel for building brand awareness. The report found that marketers still believe traditional media remains critical to brand building and its associated top-of-funnel marketing metrics, including brand awareness, recall and favorability. Fifty-five percent of respondents plan to allocate at least 40 percent of their ad budget to traditional media (TV, print, radio, etc.), according to the report.

Why Engaging With the News Media Is Worth the Risk

We, of course, understand why some companies would be cautious about speaking to the media and that they have the right to decline to be interviewed if it’s truly in their best interest. But we wholeheartedly disagree that a risk-avoidance strategy is an answer.

Much of Pearlstein’s article focuses on consumer brands. But for professional services organizations, we encourage a proactive – not a reactive – approach to engaging with the news media, even given the current news environment.

Here’s why:

  • You snooze, you lose: There will come a time when the C-level executive who shuts down a reporter will need that same reporter to tell their story, and perhaps be more understanding of a company’s business and context throughout the reporting process.
  • You have control of a negative or positive story outcome: This is something many executives forget and likely the reason so many run the opposite direction when a reporter reaches out. Preparation is key, and ahead of any interview, it’s important that executives be completely comfortable and have multiple tools and techniques to make sure an interview goes in their favor.
  • You miss out on the benefits of thought leadership: In 2017, Edelman and LinkedIn released a joint research study of more than 1,300 business decision-makers and C-suite executives that explored how thought leadership influences their behaviors throughout the B2B purchase process. Among the study’s key findings was that 45 percent of decision-makers and 48 percent of C-suite executives said a company’s thought leadership directly led them to award business to that firm. If an executive makes a choice not to participate in a story, they are likely missing out on an under-leveraged business development resource.
  • You have a responsibility: We believe true thought leaders have an obligation to participate skillfully in the conversations that matter to their clients. This is especially true as they seek to increase market share, attract leading talent and achieve a higher purpose. There is a missed opportunity every time they choose not to respond to a reporter’s request.

We’ve written previously about the possibility of recent attacks on the press intimidating reporters and news organizations from telling the stories they feel the public has a right – and likely a need – to know. What would be worse is if these important stories aren’t told because leaders in corporate America choose not to pick up the phone. By adopting what amounts to a siege mentality when it comes to the news media, they’re passing up opportunities for thought leadership.

And in the professional services realm – given the content preferences of those making buying decisions – they’re making an unequivocal mistake.

Since joining Greentarget ten years ago, Lisa has found great success as a highly-effective account manager and media relations expert.

During college basketball season, she can be found cheering on her Indiana University Hoosiers.