Navigating Media Relations: The Two-Way Street of Public Communication

Posted by Kaden Jacobs, APR
September 25, 2023

The days of blanket press releases and one-way conversations are long gone for PR practitioners. Today’s landscape has evolved into a dynamic two-way street, influenced not only by the foundational principles of public relations, but also by the ever-changing landscape of pop culture. Our PR forefathers couldn’t have imagined a “Barbieheimer,” much less found ways to attach campaigns to it, from toilet paper to kitchen appliances. As we further immerse ourselves in this intersection of tradition and modernity, it becomes ever clearer that understanding and mastering this dynamic relationship will be crucial for future success.

Pop Culture and Media Relations: A Symbiotic Relationship

While PR has always been about building relationships, today’s environment is a different level of communication and response than it was 10-15 years ago. More than ever, pop culture has an immense impact on the media and vice versa. Consider how influencers on social media become overnight sensations or how a well-placed celebrity tweet can set the internet ablaze. Even our most highly esteemed news outlets share information on the latest Lululemon dupes (CRZ Yoga) and Silicon Valley’s favorite shoe (Allbirds). The culture is shouting from the rooftops, and the media is listening.

Pop culture trends often dictate media content, while media exposure can propel pop culture phenomena to Mars. For example, the rise of viral challenges like the Ice Bucket Challenge or the Harlem Shake started on social media platforms and were later picked up by NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN, ESPN, and others. This phenomenon underscores the ever-increasing intertwining of pop culture and media and highlights its symbiotic nature.

The Traditional and Modern Dynamics of Media Relations

Traditionally, media relations revolved around sending press releases and hoping for media coverage. Tables filled with printed photos and crisply folded documents quickly found their way into envelopes and out to the media. Success was a story in print over the next 7-10 days. Today, it encompasses a much broader spectrum of engagement. For success, followers on social media need to have seen and reacted to the post, a print / digital story needs to run, and the business impact must be measurable.

Media professionals now expect a more personalized and interactive approach from PR practitioners. Media relations have become a dialogue rather than a monologue, as was always intended. This shift towards interactivity aligns seamlessly with the participatory culture of the digital age where audiences actively engage with content, shaping narratives and sparking discussions.

Navigating the Two-Way Street: Best Practices

Success Takes Two

Media relations is indeed a two-way street where the rules of engagement are continually evolving. In a world where pop culture and media are inextricably linked, PR practitioners are asked to navigate an ever-increasing number of channels with finesse. By acknowledging the symbiotic relationship between the two forces of media and pop culture and embracing a more interactive, adaptive approach, public relations professionals can drive meaningful conversations, shape narratives and ultimately achieve their communication goals in the modern age.

Kaden Jacobs, APR, is a member of Poston’s media relations team and is based in Augusta, Georgia.