If a media outlet like The New York Times – generally regarded as the most well-read and influential newspaper with more than 100 years of award-winning journalism[1] – can be called “fake news,” is there still opportunity and value in growing your brand’s thought leadership reputation through media coverage?

As a former journalist and a 25-year veteran in the communications industry, my understanding of the workings of the press and the value and benefits of media coverage has always been central to my job. In the past quarter century, I’ve seen the media landscape undergo many changes: shrinking newsrooms, the blurring of media platform lines, the increase of clickbait tactics, the advent and impact of social and participatory media, non-journalist blogging, the growing influence of word-of-mouth and search… The list goes on.

Does media relations offer diminishing return on investment for thought leaders?

Despite all those changes, organizations and individual thought leaders still sought media coverage as part of their public relations plans as a way to effectively communicate their messages to the public and bolster their reputation. Even as the value of raising awareness dwindled in the face of increasing competition for share of voice, the authenticity of the media continued to offer what we call “third-party credibility.” Of course, you can’t count on people immediately finding or reading your article as it gets lost amongst so much other information and news, BUT you still reap the value of your article or your message being published by The New York Times (or Forbes or USA Today or ABC News, etc.) by sharing it directly with key audiences. Having the media brand associated with your article implies your message is worthy and credible. Right?

We can’t rely on media coverage alone. Organizations need to invest in other, more direct ways to build credibility and trust.Click To Tweet

But today, with trust in the media sinking, is there any value left? Is that article you published or were quoted in worthy or credible anymore? Should you continue to invest in media relations?

Possibly. Only time will tell if media outlets can adapt and overcome these strikes against their credibility and authenticity. In any case, it will be difficult to reverse the trend. So what should you do?

Be smart about where you place your media bets, and diversify to other thought leadership tactics.

Any investment in media relations should be highly scrutinized and strategic. Communicators continuing to seek media coverage value should focus on opportunities with outlets that are innovating new reporting approaches like live and real-time fact-checking and working to increase the public’s news literacy. Publication of and in longer-form, more thoughtful and well-researched articles should also continue to hold significance and help build authority.

But even in the best possible scenario, thought leaders (and the communicators and marketers who work with them) can’t rely on media coverage alone to build trust and bolster their reputations. Organizations need to invest in more direct ways to build credibility and trust with their audiences. Thought leadership strategies that leverage owned and shared media, such as blogging, content marketing, social media, influencer relations and direct engagement at conferences, continue to grow in effectiveness, and will offer higher value and returns in today’s fake news environment.

Under Threat: The Changing Role of Media Relations in PR [E-Book]

[1] The New York Times has consistently been recognized for its quality journalism, having won 117 Pulitzer Prizes, more than any other newspaper.

With a keen ability to take vision and translate it into tactical action, Nicole has been helping the firm's clients realize their dreams for more than 18 years. As senior advisor, she is relied upon for her direct counsel, out-of-the-box thinking and creative programming. Her greatest joy is seeing others – clients, colleagues and peers alike – get to that aha moment, and she isn't afraid to take risks, ask the tough questions (maybe it comes from her years as a journalist) and experiment to get them there. Outside of the office she likes to keep it simple: relaxing by the beach with a good book and then cooking dinner for friends.