When digital news and social media met a global pandemic, it was like dumping kerosene on a fire burning in the world of traditional journalism. According to Pew Research, 65% of those surveyed say they “rarely or never” receive news from print. Ouch. And with falling readership, newspaper employment fell by 57% to 31,000 between 2008 and 2020. During the same period, the number of digital-native newsroom employees rose 144% to about 18,000.
The digital versus traditional battle plays out in many ways. Social media influencers are paid gobs of money to talk about brands and products with their audiences. Conversely, PR asks consumer publications with huge readership to write about clients for free. (Can you believe?!) And affiliate marketing is bigger than ever. This disparity in the pay-for-play continuum makes it increasingly difficult for earned media teams to help a brand break through the noise.
Here’s how all that has had a big impact on the way PR pros do business:
Journalists’ jobs are changing, which means ours are, too.
While newsrooms evolve and media companies merge, journalists are gravitating toward freelance gigs rather than full-time positions. That means the journalists we pitch our clients’ stories and products to are changing – and whether it be reporting to new editors, or changing beats entirely, those changes force us to start relationship-building from scratch.
Layoffs are common in the current market, too. PR professionals must be aware of these changes and sensitive to their situations. For example, when a major print publication shuts down a specific publishing house, it’s wise to halt pitching efforts to journalists that remain with the publisher out of respect.
Maintaining this sensitivity strengthens our relationship-building with journalists, but also sacrifices pitching time. In the long run, it’s worth it to maintain the relationship.
To stay abreast of where key contacts are moving, it’s helpful to subscribe to newsletters from PR management tools like MuckRack and Cision that provide updates on where journalists are going next. Going a step further, our team loves following journalists’ social media profiles (especially Twitter and LinkedIn). And these connections can create a more authentic relationship, too.
Today, more than ever, resilience and relevance are key.
After spending hours ensuring we identify the perfect contacts, the next challenge is sparking a journalist’s interest. According to the Propel Media Barometer Q1 2022, the average journalist response rate to media pitches dropped from 5.21% in 2020 to 3.53% in 2021.
From a technical standpoint, public relations professionals have to vet and pitch hundreds of journalists in hopes of securing interest from just a few. It’s imperative that we craft timely, captivating, and relevant stories (to the journalist and the medium). MuckRack’s State of Journalism Report 2022 helps guide what really works when pitching:
- 71% of journalists think a story is sharable if it’s connected to a trending topic,
- 65% think a story is sharable if it has an accompanying image or infographic,
- And 57% say a story is sharable if it contains exclusive or surprising data.
How have shifting newsroom dynamics impacted your line of work?
Have influencers rocked your world? Are affiliate links here to stay? Let us know in the comments how you’re navigating this new world. Oh hey, and let’s follow each other!
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