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From our Depsters January 24, 2020

Are Media Relations Dying?


As the art of storytelling evolves, an emphasis is placed on PR practitioners to keep up with emerging audiences to communicate in the most effective ways. A major part of PR is building relationships with the press and working collaboratively with journalists to unravel stories that tie in key messages from the businesses and organisations we represent.

New generations are increasingly turning to digital platforms to get informed in real-time by accessing raw, user-generated content. And, consequently, traditional news media is beginning to fall in popularity with the rise of social media, blogs, and podcasts. This shift has sparked concern within the PR community and many folks are asking themselves, is this the demise of media relations? 

As a journalist turned PR, with thirteen years of combined experience, I’m able to chime in on the current situation from both sides of the spectrum. In my professional opinion, there will always be a place for niche and mainstream media. The news cycle is certainly in a state of digital transformation, but it’s not dissimilar to any other industry, which means those in PR/ Communications and their reporter counterparts will need to be vigilant to outdated ways and adapt in order to stay ahead of the curve in grabbing the public’s attention.

A pitch-perfect opportunity

Newspapers and print publications have evidently noticed a consistent downward trend in circulation since the dotcom bubble took over. Advertisers sought opportunities elsewhere and many papers couldn’t afford to print and distribute the volumes that they use to. The broadcast media saw a similar, yet less drastic, defeat. The decline sparked significant staff layoffs, as outlets moved forward by nationalising their coverage, shutting down many regional press offices, and adopting digital.  

With less staff and a new onus on delivering consistent time-sensitive coverage, journalists are relying more on PR professionals for content hooks. Even though there is more leeway for PRs to pitch, it’s important that they are mindful of the journalist’s increased workflow and ensure the content they are submitting is relevant. Journalists appreciate when PR pros review their publication and identify where their content is most suited. It’s best for articles to be written bespoke for their outlet, in its tone of voice and given exclusive rights to publishing. 

Journalists and influencers are increasingly turning to software, like Response Source and Cision to connect with PRs for content writing and ideas. These platforms are radically changing the strategy behind media relations by providing PR professionals with access to the leading journalists and the chance to bid for coverage.

Digitally Connecting the PR Pipeline

The format to submit content to the media has evolved, as journalists are now taking a multichannel approach to coverage. PRs should consider which platform is best to effectively communicate their message and what value their content brings the outlet. For example, a tweet may more appropriate in some circumstances over a feature article… and more PRs are pitching for this type of coverage. When submitting content, it should be packaged with relevant multimedia files and may include a proposed distribution strategy with sample social media posts. This intel gives the journalist transparency into how their content fits into a wider campaign and is appreciated by smaller trade titles in particular, especially if plans involve collaborating with an influencer that will not only expand the reach of their coverage but also build-up the profile of the media outlet itself.  

The days of ‘about us’ PDFs are over. Now, its best practice for press releases and content pitches to be supported by a digital media kit with interactive tools for busy writers, producers and editors to download images and video content, as well as access survey data; making it easier for them to accredit your brand in their coverage. A media kit should be jargon-free and list which clients you represent as well as indicate if there are any opportunities for brand partnerships with influencers. A digital media kit is essentially an owned space to tell your story and is also helpful to introduce your brand during media meetings. 

As we review how digital has transformed the news cycle, causing a shift in the dynamic between journalists and PR pros, we can’t help but look ahead and predict how the industry will continue to progress. Consumer behaviour indicates the fake news phenomenon is coming to an end, it flooded social media and caused a stir but people are becoming more conscious of what they’re reading and favouring authenticity above all. Gen Z and millennials are sceptical and often don’t trust what they read at face value, and therefore, owned media will become of lesser value and in-depth, investigative journalism will creep back into the limelight. 

Based on the eco-conscious, globally-minded and tunned generations proceeding, I predict hard-hitting content to make a quick comeback. However, for traditional news outlets to keep up, they’ll need to transform their reporting style to fall in line with the instant gratification people gain for social media updates. Having to read an article for 10 minutes can feel like a chore and is offputting for the digitally savvy younger audiences. In the future, we may see a change in user-experience on some of the most influential heritage news sites to hopefully upkeep their legacy, whilst fulfilling the budding demographics appetite for news. Think Netflix style user experience with a content structure of Facebook; populated with snippy text on the world’s most important topics supported by lots of visuals, audio clips and live updates that can be easily digested.

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