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Death of the deadline confirmed

March, 2013

With the unrelenting march of the smartphone and tablet, the great British public is getting a growing proportion of its news digitally. As a result, the deadline is now well and truly dead.

Until recently the online presence of many media groups was the poor relation of the printed edition. Today, many are increasingly adopting a digital-first policy, with their online offering now the driver of news delivery.

One of the first casualties on the road to digital delivery has been the deadline.

In its traditional sense, whether daily, weekly or monthly, the deadline is now dead – as news has become immediate. This isn’t necessarily a new phenomenon, but it’s certainly more noticeable. People now use their phones and tablets, not just to check their emails and texts, but also the latest headlines, sports scores, celebrity gossip, travel and weather, and the wealth of other information that can be found on the web.

What does it mean for businesses and the PR agencies that serve them?

Andy Rayfield, a former senior journalist and now Account Manager at Maxim, considers the issue.

The days of carefully timing the issuing of your client’s press release to effect maximum take-up are a thing of the past.

The theory used to be that if you issued something at 4pm on a Friday afternoon, you were a fool to yourself. Your carefully crafted release would languish in the recipient’s inbox over the weekend, gradually slipping further and further down the screen as rivals’ submissions and yet more junk mail arrived.

What chance of it being picked up on Monday morning when it was at number 351 in the unread emails list? Not a lot.

No more.

Forget the concept of evening, morning and weekly newspapers. Today, there is simply news. And there are more rivals fighting for recognition in the crowded digital world than there ever were for space on your local newspapers’ pages.

Readers turn writers

Ten years ago, User Generated Content (UGC) was an alien concept to journalists. Readers’ letters, wedding reports, WI news, club reports – that was about it as far as reader interaction went.

Today, UGC is the holy grail. A news organisation’s users, be they readers, online followers, listeners or watchers, are an integral part of the reporting team. The technical spec of photographs taken on today’s mobile phones makes everyone a potential press photographer or cameraman.

That means news is immediate at even the most local level. No more waiting until that morning call to the Fire Brigade to find out about the blaze at the school last night – pictures and video will be landing in the newsdesk inbox within seconds of it breaking out, courtesy of members of the public.

Social networking sites are valuable sources of up to the second breaking news for journalists. They allow the public and organisations to interact with news groups and their followers on any subject under the sun.

This can make life very interesting for PR agencies trying to manage a client’s message. Once a bushfire has broken out in the comments section of a news group’s website or on social networking sites, it can become impossible to contain.

Clients likely to be exposed to such scrutiny need to be prepared with messages to counteract or support the online noise – and be fully aware of just how much (or little) can be done to contain it.

So although space in the digital news world appears to be infinite, the competition to fill it is intense and content editors can afford to be choosy, making the life of a PR pro ever more challenging.

More than ever, our submissions have to be timely, relevant and as close to ready to use as it is possible to make them. If your event takes place on a Thursday morning and your release and picture limp into a newsdesk on Monday morning, then you have missed the boat by the width of an ocean.

And if there are no audio and/or video clips of the event to upload, then it may well be usurped by a rival’s submission that contains those elements.

Of course, some rules remain the same. If the story you are telling is a compelling one, it is likely to be used.

But a good PR agency today has effectively become a news agency on behalf of its clients, producing stories almost in real time to catch the wave of online coverage.

The good PR pro still works with clients to identify the selling point of the story – be it a stunning image, a great sound bite or simply a first rate story, and clients will be educated by their account handler as to the importance of a clear and efficient clearance process so the release, when issued, is timely and relevant.

In short, the opportunities presented by the digital-first world of today’s media make it a happy and profitable hunting ground for good PR operations. You might just have to get your elbows out to get to the front of the queue.

posted in: advice, digital, media relations, social media,

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