In all advanced engineering sectors, trade press communications continues to be an essential aspect of marketing and public relations (PR) – despite the increased use of social media platforms.
The traditional role of PR professionals is to raise awareness of a company and to build trust, and PR communicators are perceived as top of the sales funnel initiators.
According to HubSpot, press communications is the
“practice of leveraging media channels to promote your organisation and cultivate a positive public perception.”
Conversely, the traditional role of a marketing department has been to promote specific products and services.
The line between press communications and marketing is blurring
The traditional methods of both brand promotion and communications have to some extent been overtaken by social media marketing.
PR professionals have recognised this as, according to USC Annenberg’s 2019 Global Communications Report 51% of communicators expect to integrate further with marketing over the next few years.
The changing face of the media industry has impacted press communications
Over the last decades many news and media outlets have declined or disappeared. And this has had big implications for the PR team. For example:
- Publications that used to be staple contacts have shut down.
- PR officers have found it difficult to keep their media contacts because they [the contacts] have moved or now write for several publications simultaneously.
- A smaller number of journalists are overloaded with pitches.
- Social media has taken over much of the mix when it comes to the news.
Communicators need to consider how they’re connecting with new stakeholders to ensure they’re adding real value to the organisation.
The job of the communicator is still valid, even though some responsibilities may overlap with the marketing team. They can involve:
- Securing editorial coverage in specialist engineering trade magazines
- Managing social media
- Overseeing applications for engineering industry awards
- Designing brochures and providing a presence at engineering exhibitions
The death of the press release has been much exaggerated!
When it comes to engineering public relations, a key area where a press communicator can add value is with the press release.
It is a staple of the communications department, there to provide a quick synopsis of information to industry insiders. For example, a press release can be used to alert journalists of a product launch.
Press releases are still important in raising brand awareness, provided they are professionally written, structured for the new digital media and effectively distributed so they get picked up by relevant trade magazines and blogs.
Nowadays, the press release is typically sent out via a newswire service or through a distribution agency. However, both are regarded as somewhat impersonal. The best results (pick up) still come from sending directly to targeted media establishments as well as (or instead of) via a newswire service. Or, to put it another, don’t lose sight of what the R in PR stands for.
You can also upload your news directly to some online publications. The editors just need to OK it to go live.
When it comes to technical marketing, it’s necessary to appear in the technical trade press in order to garner new prospects and leads.
This is because:
- Niche outlets will be interested in your products and developments.
- Your news will be of interest to their readers and specialist engineering magazines will usually be happy to feature you.
In addition, many trade publications are themselves onboard with social media – and often Tweet some of the news items they’re running.
Having said that, not all press releases are created equal. Journalists get bombarded with them.
Indeed, it’s because coverage is not guaranteed that press communications are considered challenging. Whereas you can post your own news on social media, press communications are ‘gated’. Someone else (i.e., an editor), decides whether or not your news makes the cut.
Though challenging, it’s rewarding when it happens. There’s kudos in appearing in the editorial section of a trade publication because an independent person has recognised the importance of your news and is keen to share it with their contacts; e.g., tens of thousands of readers.
Press communicators need to create pitch perfect press releases
To make sure press releases hit their target, communicators need to make them concise, attention-grabbing and relevant. If not, they risk getting overlooked.
They need to be up to date, employ quotes and contain background information. It’s also worth ensuring the press release is SEO optimised, with short keyword-focused headlines.
While the distinction between press communications and marketing (especially social media marketing) is becoming less precise, engineering companies need both functions.
Communicators are the main drivers of promoting the business, whether that’s relaying information via digital media – e.g. blogs or social media posts – or providing expert press releases to the trade press.