PR Training

What AirPods and FAA Regulations Have to Do With Media Relations

I’m writing this on a plane to North Carolina. And something is really standing out to me this spring as I’m traveling to deliver live training events.

Until a few years ago, the Federal Aviation Administration had a rule that you couldn’t wear headphones during the final approach to landing. Flight attendants would come around and tap on your shoulder right before a descent.

The headphones would come off, and you’d actually start chatting with the people sitting nearby. If my seatmates seemed interested in engaging, then I’d get to know them for the final few minutes of the flight.

But since the FAA abandoned that rule, headphones and earbuds stay in our ears all the way to the gate. My last roundtrip I noticed my seatmates took it one step further. They got to my row with AirPods already in and immersed themselves in their phones right away.

I was sitting mere inches from them, but I might as well have been hundreds of miles away. Let’s say I had something important to share with them. If my message wasn’t showing up in the podcast they were listening to or the e-newsletter they were checking, then they weren’t going to get it.

Here’s my point for you: Every person you are trying to reach is figuratively wearing AirPods. Your messaging could be right next to them, but they’ll never notice it unless you identify and target the third parties they are already engaged with, whether those are traditional media or somebody else’s “owned” content. Place a guest on that podcast. Do a content partnership with the email newsletter they receive. Get some of your content picked up by the media outlets they subscribe to.

And then use that exposure to win them over as a subscriber to YOUR podcast, e-newsletter, Instagram feed or any other platform you’ve built.

Simply pushing out content to your existing audiences won’t cut it. Neither will earning coverage in the same media outlets you always have.

We need to earn our way into communication vehicles produced by third parties our audiences already trust, whether those third parties are media or other companies or thought leaders.

That’s what I’ve been focusing on this year in my trainings. I’ve been looking at identifying influencers, integrating earned media with owned and shared, as well as the latest pitching techniques that are just as likely to win over another company’s content marketer as they are a traditional magazine editor.

Just as the FAA changes flight regulations in response to new technology, you should do your best to adapt to the new media landscape.

And when this flight lands in Raleigh, I’ll see if I can at least get a smile and a nod from this guy next to me.


Michael Smart teaches PR professionals how to dramatically increase their positive media placements. He’s engaged regularly by organizations like General Motors, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Georgia Tech to help their media relations teams reach new levels of success. Get more media pitching knowledge from Michael Smart here.

Image by Daniel McCullough

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Michael Smart

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