How Brands are Sabotaging Themselves in the World of Modern Media

Recently, I came across the same situation with two different footwear brands, and I wanted to share it with you. For decades, I have been fortunate enough to work with Communications staff (still do) at most brands who understand that relationships are key to supporting the storytelling done in modern Journalism. Content Creators are not journalists, and while there is a place for them, the key demographics for most brands understand when they are being sold a bill of goods.

So, as a public service, I will remind communications teams how to build stories about their brands with media in this new world.

1. Zoom press conferences are better than no press conferences. When launching something like an Olympic uniform for global teams, brands might consider offering a Zoom presser, with B roll available, so that various independent media groups can edit and fine-tune their coverage. In most cases, the brand will get more coverage, and more consumers will see its launch. Sending out logoed videos is going to limit coverage on a global level.

2. Media access is key to good storytelling. NIKE invited several hundred media to their Olympic uniform launches for many years, but not so in 2024. In fact, NIKE’s Olympic uniforms for track and field, which could be seen on social media and then via press release on the site, are garnering lukewarm media response. From 1996-2016, NIKE had a well-attended press event, showcasing new shoes and kits with chances to interview top athletes. That does not seem to be the case now.

3. Decide what your goal is! Do you want your story told? Then, invite the Media!  PUMA recently launched in Jamaica on their Olympic uniforms. Unfortunately, they did not seem to provide a B roll, photos, or even a release. The Content creators that they chose to cover the event were numerous, and the coverage that PUMA has received post-event has been minimal. It is quite sad because the kit looks quite nice, but few track and field media outlets were advised about the events.

4. Getting a release, preview video, and some photos out early is an investment in. your success. adidas noted their Adizero Road to Records to the media over a month before the event. At RunBlogRun, we will post the preview video and the release and remind our 3 million monthly readers (RunningNetwork partners and RunBlogRun) about the Adidas event for the entire month prior. Adidas did it correctly, letting the media know that an event was taking place.

5. To keep a media organization alive in this decade is nearly impossible. For media groups to thrive, they need independent content. Consumers come to a site because they like their approach to media, want a writer’s style, enjoy a videographer, and perhaps enjoy social media commentary. Giving a media organization some advance warning on an event, providing photos, and B roll (non-logoed) will open brands up to more viewership of their communications.

6. Brands now do not like criticism at all. Try and control that criticism, and brands are going to see backfires. Healthy analysis is a good thing, and consumers like it. They know when they are getting a press release. RunBlogRun and our friends in the modern media tend to comment on releases to give their readers some context. If brands truly want coverage of their products, events, and ambassadors, then take the time to develop a relationship with key media. There is a product called a phone, use it. Texting does not provide context, nor does it develop a relationship.

7. A modern communications professional knows that consumers use the various platforms (digital, social, audio, video, print) that their brands desire. The more expensive the product, the more a consumer usually checks it out and looks for actual reviews, not fangasms. Take the time to find media brands, young and old, that provide consistent, credible content to their viewers and readers. Print readers tend to have the highest HHI and also the highest retention of content. The combination of digital, audio, and print can work on many occasions. Oh, but that means you might have to support print!

8. Media companies that are successful support diverse workforces. To make RunBlogRun a success, I work with 20+ writers, videographers, and senior writers from around the globe. I edit all stories (22,500 since 2006) and also write pieces weekly. It takes time and focus. I get pitches each and every day, some good, some not so good. I will give new brands a chance and actually speak to the comms team, offering suggestions. I find that a diversity of opinions and beliefs has always helped us give as complete a story as we possibly can.

9. Brands need to be accessible. For years, NIKE was one of the most accessible brands in the universe, but not so anymore. It should not be shocking to see that NIKE garners negative social media and negative comments even when they do not deserve it. Perhaps look at communications tactics. Brooks gets back to media in less than 24 hours, as does HOKA and ON running. Size does not matter in terms of communication. Some large brands do a great job, and some small brands do a fantastic job. The fastest response I have ever had was from Xero shoes. I had a note in one hour and shoes in 3 days, with a team of one.

10. Follow-up is key. I appreciate that media comms people receive many requests a day, and part of their job is to curate them and do what is best for their brand. Media appreciates access, a quick response, and follow-up.

11. Old school is not a bad thing. Shake it up and have a real live press conference, providing access to athletes, spokespeople, and products. What is the best one I ever went to? Reebok 2000 (in August 2000), where we spent 2 days meeting the tech team on running, spoke with their media comms people and saw 3D printing (still have sample). NIKE running product launches (1990s-2016) were always spectacular. Product launches, access to the tech team and professional comms people who absolutely got it, and provided content, product, and access. Brands watch dollars now, rightly so, but also have put themselves into the same hell that the computer industry has found itself in no differentiation between brands.

12. Brands do matter; know your messaging. Stop the bravado of saying you’re the best and all other brands quiver in your presence! It is so damn arrogant, and no one is that good. Communicate well, get your message out, and know who your friends are. Most brands no longer throw EXTERNAL on any email sent by a media pro. The media is not the enemy. Your lack of understanding of how to communicate anymore is the issue. I get 250 different brand texts around The Running Event, which means from mid-October to the first week of December, I am inundated. After that, PR and Comms people do not even return phone calls.

The changes in the communications business have been happening for almost a decade. The collapse of print advertising destroyed many exemplary media cultures, and digital dollars comprise 1/10th of the revenue from print media. Writers, photographers, and videographers are paid less, as editors have less to work with. Somehow, media groups and new media survive and thrive. Brands that appreciate some of the complexity of current media paradigms will get their messaging to more and more media outlets and more and more consumers.