Media placement is one of the core tenets of public relations, if not the main goal: we build clients into Brands through their exposure across a variety of outlets until they hit the threshold of public interest and become relevant (and then the real PR fun begins).
The endless evolution of media is one of the ever-changing trends that we have to be very aware of in PR; particularly since the 2000s, news and pop culture consumption has changed radically (and continues to). For example, the last five years have seen an abundance of articles bemoaning the “death of journalism” in the face of social media ubiquity and a pervasive click-bait-as-business mentality. Leading national newspapers continue to increase print subscription fees as consumers turn to the Internet, and even that online presence is constantly challenged by the instant accessibility of in-your-face Facebook algorithms that bring the news to you via right rails and friends.
In that same vein, we no longer turn to radio as much as we used to in booking exposure for clients. Radio shows used to be a default go-to, but as with the rest of media consumerism in 2017, the variety show model has largely been eclipsed by outlets that are tailored to specific interests and which are easy to digest on the go with a smartphone.
Enter the Podcast. A portmanteau of “pod” (iPod) and “broadcast” coined in 2004 by BBC journalist Ben Hammersley, podcasts snuck into the scene and enjoyed moderate interest among key early adopters until an explosion in the 2010s that cemented them as a popular medium, challenging traditional radio business practices. Of course broadcast radio is still prevalent: it’s an easy habit to flip on FM while driving to work in the a.m., and if we’re talking local traffic, national news, and current hits, you’re set.
But, so many of our clients—especially our authors and filmmakers who are just starting to take off—don’t have stories that fit immediately into that general news mold. Podcasts offer an hyper-accessible channel with the advantage of highly particular subject matter, if so desired. The host-guest(s) conversational structure that features in so many podcasts also means authentic connection and the chance to build lasting and mutually beneficial professional relationships. Plus, podcast audiences are already primed to be interested in show guests.
Why is that so important if the audience is just a niche community? Because if we can successfully identify appropriate channels, we win guaranteed exposure for clients in communities that will champion them, and amplify their presence enthusiastically and organically. In eternal HBO hit Sex and the City, leading lady Samantha Jones is a PR pro who pushes her then boyfriend Jerry “Smith” Jerrod to commercial success as an actor, gleefully noting of his confusion at the path his burgeoning career is taking, “First come the gays, then the girls!” Sure enough, his career takes off right on schedule.
Now we’re not that particular market here, nor would we perhaps be quite so flippant, but the wisdom holds: in this new age of Comic-Con as a media mogul instead of just a nerd haven, and Harry Styles as a critically acclaimed musical talent beyond a pre-teen dream*, we embrace and rely on fandom more than ever.
In 2017, fandom is not frivolous, it’s what comes first.
What we’re saying: if you’re an author or a filmmaker, don’t shy away from appealing to niche audiences, or starting off with exposure in smaller, more specific outlets (and if you’re working with your PR team, trust us, there’s a plan). Podcasts in particular are your friend! Find the communities that love what you’re doing and want to champion you, so that when it comes time to pitch yourself to bigger fish, those mainstream outlets will care because a quick Google search will show that everyone else already does.
*If you’re dubious about One Direction’s main man, check out NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour or Panoply’s Switched on Pop for more on Mr. Styles…speaking of podcasts.