The popularity and use of free publicity, PR, public relations or media relations historically increases when the economy tanks. In the midst of this seemingly extended downturn, PR is certainly gaining priority in the business-to-business marketing mix. At the same time, PR is changing significantly. So how can you refine your PR to realize greater results?

This blog will examine how PR has changed, and how your PR program can change to leverage new PR opportunities. Next, we‘ll focus on the specifics of PR distribution options and develop overall new rules of PR.

PR Has Changed – Have you changed your PR?

So, how has PR changed? Not to overstate, but PR has changed more in the last few years than in the last 30 years combined. How? The changing roles of journalists and marketing practitioners, and the rapidly increasing use of social media in PR.

No doubt, the recession has taken a toll on journalists with layoffs, and those remaining have greater workloads, tightening budgets, and added responsibilities of writing for multiple mediums. According to the 2010 PRWeek /PR Newswire Media Survey, 59% of traditional (print) journalists are the author of a blog, and are also expected to contribute to online news, Twitter and other channels.

With greater workload, the research tools used by journalists might identify opportunities for marketing practitioners. Not surprisingly, Google and other search engines rank highest. 95% in 2010 per the PRWeek survey, followed by company websites (93%), Wikipedia (47%), newswires (36%), social networks (33%), and blogs (32%).

Social Media Emergence

While the hype of social media pervades marketing practitioners, the use of social media for publicity is growing rapidly, and becoming a major part of both journalists’ and practitioners’ PR activities.

According to the survey, in 2010 79% of journalists had a Facebook profile, 46% had a LinkedIn profile, and 58% had a Twitter profile. Only 11% had no profiles. Twitter realized the most dramatic increase from just 22% in 2009.

In addition, 43% of PR practitioners use social networks to pitch media, with 76% using Twitter and 49% using Facebook. One of the key reasons practitioners use social media – Search engine results! Often posts to social media channels rank higher than even company websites for key search terms. And as noted above, journalists use search engines 95% of the time for research.

A discussion of PR and social media would be incomplete without acknowledging the growing importance of blogs. Per above, 59% of traditional (print) journalists write blogs. In addition, 45% of journalists have quoted a blog in an article, and journalists use both general blogs (24%) and company blogs (23%) for research. On the practitioner side, 66% are targeting bloggers more than before. “The corporate, brand or subject matter blog can be the hub of an integrated PR program, using social media channels for distributing blogposts and other news,” suggests Neil Brown, Managing Partner of Modern Marketing Partners.

The New Rules of PR

So what are the implications of the changing PR landscape to practitioners or client-side marketers? Clearly PR strategies and tactics should embrace these changes, and leverage the opportunities.

“Now more than ever, practitioners should be deploying blogs, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube profiles, Wikipedia pages, and Bookmark/Share links on website pages. The blog and all profiles should be linked to the website, which should have RSS feeds. News announcements should be formatted to include links to these assets and other relevant information sources,” shares Neil Brown, Managing Partner of Modern Marketing Partners. “The integration of PR and social media delivers powerful results that make both tactics more critical to the marketing mix. Publicity is a key source of content for social media, and more than ever, content is king.

Implementing the New Rules of PR

The Construction Marketing Association (CMA) is a good example of effective PR and integrated social media execution. Heather Hawes, Program Manager for the association sums it up, “Just a couple of years ago, we would email a news announcement to trade editors. We still distribute to trade editors but we also post news on our websites and blogs with RSS feeds, use Twitter, Facebook, and social bookmarking tools to distribute the news and submit to free news distribution services. If the news item is big or strategic enough, we will submit to paid distribution services. Finally, we can measure placements with alerts and searches. Its faster, deeper and more measurable.”

PR Distribution Tips

As you might expect, there is no “silver bullet” or single solution that addresses all needs. Most marketing practitioners use a combination of approaches for getting news and PR releases in front of editors and influencers.

“Distribution services increase news reach and placements, particularly across the internet, and with blogs that would be hard to identify,” adds Neil Brown.

No question, there are more PR distribution service options than ever.

So which service should you use? Per above, depending on the importance of the news, you may opt for free distribution for minor releases, to the highest level of services for news that require the broadest distribution. Or specific features like financial disclosure compliance, which BusinessWire and PR Newswire both support.

The Modern Marketing Partners staff often uses a combination of free and paid, thus ensuring that multiple news sources will pick-up the news.

MMP ranks PRWeb highest by virtue of the combination of reasonable fees, broad distribution and high Google PageRank. Upon review, Businesswire and PR Newswire are the top-end services, and very similar. Although Businesswire pricing is more reasonable for smaller clients.

We have experienced excellent search results using and After this exercise, we are inclined to further evaluate Following are some additional services we found but did not analyze. In the meantime, what services do you prefer and why?

What are your PR experiences? Do you have additional new rules of PR that your company implements? Please be sure to share your comments with us, and share, re-tweet and like this post with your colleagues.