Media Relations: What To Do And What To Avoid

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Media relations are not only a matter of marketing but also ethics. Here are a few tips to look out for when promoting your startup through media.

The “digital natives” born after 1980 and even the ones who became used to the digital world live in a multimedia-saturated environment of highly interactive mobile and gaming devices, social networks, IMs, online television, newspapers and many others.

Media Relations: What To Do And What To Avoid

Such a wide variety changes people’s media habits:

  1. It gives a choice to seek or wait for media content, compare and find the most trustworthy channels through search engines, social media, recommendations, news feeds and many others.
  2. It provides conversation through comments, discussion boards, consumer platforms and social communities.
  3. There’s a media curation for the users to aggregate, share, rank, tag, repost, criticize content on the variety of different platforms.
  4. Moreover, users can participate in a media creation of the range of multimedia content in audio, video, text, photos, animation.
  5. Finally, users can not only create but participate in collaboration for distribution through blogs or their own websites.

Everything sounds so good. It looks as if we control the information flows, create a value content and share it with people with the same beliefs, principles or views. How can it be possible to manipulate the media 2.0 based on crowd knowledge and constant iterative improvements? Well, it’s not simply possible but also done in the same way as it was for centuries. It doesn’t matter what media channels (newspapers, radio, TV, social media, etc.) to use, the manipulation techniques stay the same.

Media Manipulation: Past vs Present

The media has been manipulated in all manners from the conversion of the governmental propaganda into the news to the destruction of a person’s reputation through “crowd anger”.
In the past these techniques have been highly popular:

  • Payment to journalists for the promotion of certain issues without the journalist acknowledging that fact, or without mentioning the media sources.
  • Partnership with experts or “leaders of thoughts” to sell the important issues.
  • Disinformation or partial information reported as news or facts without any link to the source, which can be questionable.
  • Political spinning of news to highlight some scandal and avert public attention from very important issues.
  • PR firms/professionals feeding the press with created or pre-packaged information for the sake of a public opinion creation.
  • Smear tactics to discredit or destroy somebody’s reputation.

With the emersion of Internet and free or so called “non-censored” digital world, the manipulation takes new forms.

As David Miller said: “This is the age of the fake. We live in an era where the gap between how the world is and how powerful interests try to portray it has grown dramatically wider. Virtually nothing in public debate these days is free of the virus of fakery…”.

In the economics of web news, the key drivers are clicks, pageviews, and unique visitors. To return money to the investors or shareholders, media publishers shall generate the exponential growth in the traffic. It is the only thing that makes money. To explain it better, let’s have a look at the major revenue streams of media publishers. That is advertising. The publisher revenue equals the cumulative CPM (cost per thousand) multiplied by the number of pageviews. Briefly, it’s advertising multiplied by traffic that gives revenue. With regard to the formulae, we easily see the bottleneck. It’s the traffic. So the question becomes, how to generate the highest traffic possible for news and articles? Ryan Holiday confessed to being a media manipulator (specifically, of a blog media channel) and presented some interesting manipulation techniques to control the digital “masses of consumers” and boost the traffic:

Bloggers Are Poor – Help Pay Their Bills

Bloggers don’t earn too much money, and when they do, they get it from their pageviews. If you give them a story that can generate lots of pageviews, you bribed them without any trail.

Tell Them What They Want To Hear

Bloggers are desperate to get sensational news to attract the attention of digital consumers. If you can be a source of sensation, they will have no desire to wait and check the validity because somebody else can be quicker and post it first.

Give Them What Spreads, Not What’s Good

When the task is to advance the narratives in the media, you are to provide the one, which spreads. If not, it will be dead quickly. Thus, the news, which spread, are full of information distortion, extremes and no-real stuff.

Help Them To Trick Their Readers

The key to a successful blog headline is to give people the whole story in a line on leaving the intrigue for them to click and read the rest.

Sell Them Something They Can Sell (Exploit The One-Off Problem)

Blogs are in the same position as free newspapers distributed on the bus stops and stations. They need to outstand each other with extreme and (many times) made-up headlines to attract the saturated user.

Make It All About The Headline

Blogs are not oriented towards loyal readers. Each time they will fight for a new audience. Nowadays people click whatever article from whatever source only if it catches their attention.

Kill Them With Pageview Kindness

If to attribute the made-up story to a celebrity or the Google’s most trendy keywords, bloggers will be ready to post and repost it for the sake of traffic.

Use The Technology Against Itself

Blogs are like every other medium. They are determined to generate a vast amount of different posts per day. So they don’t have enough time to check and recheck the source of information and its validity.

Just Make Stuff Up

Blogs needs an angle. They need some catchy and wide spreading opinion. So if you give it to them, your story will be published.


Ryan Holiday said that he gave away his secrets because he was

“tired of a world where blogs take indirect bribes, marketers help write the news, reckless journalists spread lies, and no one is accountable for any of it”.

However, do you really think that the media manipulation used for centuries in different forms but with the same intent will disappear all of a sudden? In my humble opinion, it will always exist. However, similarly to Ryan, I ask you to be responsible for what you do regarding your marketing activities – keep in mind that it could always come back to you eventually.



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