From Mad Men to Modern Social Media

How the rise of social media has changed media relations for good

By: Caitlin MacDougall

Peggy learned how to write great copy on Mad Men, but could she write a press release for 2015?

Picture this: a busy office full of perfectly-coiffed women wearing dresses, working away on their typewriters while a haze of cigarette smoke hovers in the air. Dapper men in suits come and go to the constant ringing of telephones. We’re a long way from that 1960s image of an ad agency that has been popularized by TV shows like Mad Men. Likewise, marketing and media releases have also had to change to meet the needs of social media.

It’s not your grandmother’s world

Back in the 1960s advertising was largely focused on print, radio and television. Newspapers were sacred. With the creation of the internet and the digitalization of media, the way that companies and organizations communicate with the public and the press has changed remarkably. The rise of social media has accelerated this shift.

The public no longer needs to wait several days to get accurate news from social-media-iconsother parts of the world. Using social networks like Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and Skype, the public can learn of events instantly. Smartphones enable citizen journalists to capture natural disasters, accidents and other breaking news. A brand’s story can be defined by the public before a company has time to cultivate their image, unlike in the past.

Companies must monitor their brands continuously and rigorously as a result of social media. As posed in a 2010 marketing presentation on the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions’ website, “how do you control the message? How do you protect the brand?”

Changes in writing media releases

Companies used to issue formulaic fact-based press releases to communicate news or promote products and services. Now they must be more proactive and adapt their PR and marketing approaches to different media. They must capture the attention of the public and journalists and make it easy to share.

Because of the speed that news travels and the rise of citizen journalism, companies must have the attention of their target audience before they want to promote a new product or manage a crisis.

In the November 12th CBUS111 lecture, Scott Cross discussed the differences between paid, earned and owned media. Brands must cultivate their clientele through conversational storytelling pieces to maximize the value of their owned media (blogs, website, and social media channels for instance). They are more likely to receive positive reviews or publicity from the earned (external sources) as a result.

Dos and don’ts

As Kathy Cowan writes in an online blog post for The Guardian, press releases shouldn’t be overly promotional, too short or light on details. Communications in the digital era must simplify the job of the journalist. News must be pushed out more quickly with fewer staff than it used to, so marketers must provide releases that capture the audience’s interest and can be easily share with little work. They must also tailor the message to the medium.

With a little luck and a lot of technique, brands can create media releases that tell a story and optimize their owned and earned media.


2 thoughts on “From Mad Men to Modern Social Media

  1. I loved the Mad Men intro even though I’ve only ever watched a couple of episodes – it does a great job of evoking the formality of advertising in the 60s, and you contrast it with relevant points and tips from today. The Kathy Cowan blog post has great tips and I’ll definitely refer back to it in case I ever have to write a press release!



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