In the marketing arena, the traditional goal for PR agencies is pretty straightforward: get earned media. Many people describe that as the main differentiator between PR and advertising. PR gets free publicity. Advertising pays for it.

And to achieve that objective, PR agencies have an arsenal to choose from. We pitch stories to the media and influencers, stage events for them, host expert panels they attend, send them results of commissioned studies, create various types of informative content for them and deliver them new products to sample.

But what if we thought beyond media as our focus? What if we cut out the middleman and went right to the source – consumers or the audiences our clients ultimately want to engage? I don’t think that’s blasphemy. In fact, I’m certain it’s the right approach in the ever-evolving world of marketing and communications. If we create tremendous experiences (both offline and online) and highly shareable content that bring people authentic value, we position PR as a more indispensible, strategic partner to our clients. Our campaigns begin to build brand love and transform customers into advocates. We drive relevance and establish one-on-one relationships where individuals actively participate with brands and companies. People share these experiences and content with their friends – without us even asking – because we’ve offered them something they actually care about.

But here’s the best part, although maybe a bit counterintuitive. The media still picks up the stories. They don’t write and report because we’ve asked them. They further amplify the content we’ve created (and have control over) because their readership is already engaged with and sharing it. And with the incessant pressure for constant new content, they’re delighted to. We provide it for free. In exchange, they help us generate virality and build the brand.

Does the notion of bypassing the media to reach the media implode the current PR infrastructure? Not exactly. It addresses the reality that the fundamental definition of “media” is changing. We must acknowledge that consumer audiences now possess an exorbitant amount of power and influence. I’m not suggesting we abandon our traditional outreach programs. Our strategy becomes two-pronged and the approach to our clients’ challenges broadens dramatically. Experiential marketing. Video content series. Social media campaigns. Digital experiences.

When larger ideas targeted directly at specific audiences reign supreme, we not only help tackle brands’ business objectives on a larger scale. We also have created valuable currency to approach journalists with and earn media in a more traditional sense.