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Channel hopping for PR

Whilst running a course on strategic communications last week, I was reminded how the word ‘channel’ has come to mean the medium or media channels that PR’s use for communicating with chosen audiences. Deciding what channels to use is key to good PR planning. But it’s no longer relevant to segregate them in terms of print, online and broadcast because everything has merged in this digi-mobile era.  I look at them in terms of whether the media is earned, owned or bought as well as non-media communication channels.  The reality is that we often end up compromising in our choice of channels because of a lack of time, budget and ability to measure impact.  But here’s a simple list of their pro’s and con’s:

Earned media (coverage and word of mouth generated through editorial)


  • Carries credibility
  • Can reach mass audiences
  • Great for awareness building


  • Lack of control, story can be misrepresented
  • At mercy of media agenda
  • Relies on news-ability

Owned media (eg your own website, publications, broadcast, blog etc)


  • Can control the quality and content of message output.
  • Authoritative and often convenient and fast and can track effect more accurately
  • Great for reinforcing


  • Limited reach as often end up communicating with people who are on board
  • Have to take care not seen as talking at people
  • Competing communications priorities

Bought media (paid for through advertising, sponsorship etc)


  • Use for reaching specific targeted people
  • Can control the quality and content of message output
  • Great for persuading


  • Expensive
  • Diminished effect due to promotional overload, scepticism
  • Requires high level of creativity and insight

Non media (eg face to face at briefings, conferences, exhibitions, experiential)


  • By-passes media and directly reaches people
  • Can be tightly targeted and tailored
  • Great for relationship building and gaining feedback


  • Can be time and resource intensive
  • Reach is limited
  • Difficult to evaluate impact


I hope that this check list helps next time you have to decide what media channels to use during the PR planning process.

Here are other PR planning tips and if you’d like to find out more about my How to write a PR plan or How to write press releases, then do get in touch.

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