It seems like the story of “traditional media is dying” has been a meme ever since the beginning of the internet. But it’s hard to deny that recently a lot has been changing. Every time one would think media outlets can’t cut more staff they find a new bottom: 2023 saw massive layoffs which have continued into 2024. Ad spending – the historic lifeblood of mainstream media – has plummeted as people spend more time on social media platforms where advertisers can reach them directly. Local media has been eviscerated, and now many iconic national and global outlets are hurting badly. But what does all this mean for the media relations component of public relations strategy?
Media Is Becoming More Gated – and More Niche
One of the consequences of falling ad revenue is that more media outlets are subscription-based. This inevitably makes the mass audience less important, and catering to those willing to pay for access more the focal point. Media outlets find themselves with a smaller and more sophisticated audience of readers for their online platforms. For the big business publications like the Financial Times or Wall Street Journal, industry- and topic-specific newsletters and sections (whether industry-focused or topical) have become more important, catering to those readers – typically business leaders or other professionals – with particular interests. And this also means that industry or practice area trade publications are more crucial for public relations strategy, since it’s less about volume these days than it is about hitting the right audience. Your public relations strategy must take into account a more fragmented and niche media landscape, which ultimately offers at least as much of an opportunity as a challenge as it allows you to fine-tune and carefully target your message.
Video Content Is On The Rise
While news websites are now mostly subscription-based, the big media outlets do have a presence on the place where a third of U.S. adults get their daily news: social media. But social platforms are totally different from newspapers or websites: they require small, bite-sized presentations of news, increasingly in video rather than text form (though they will usually link text-based articles on the media outlet’s website). This is a still-evolving trend as most media interviews outside cable networks are still in print, but it’s conceivable that in the future there will be more video content around topics beyond breaking news. This means your spokespeople should be prepared to summarize information quickly through sound bites that would work better for social media distribution. And aside from wider media, your own internal channels should start utilizing video and social distribution to maximize reach (though for thought leaders, the in-depth written articles will always be important).
Relationship-Building Is More Important Than Ever
This blog began with the seemingly never-ending rounds of job cuts at major media outlets. The result is that each year there are fewer reporters covering more ground, meaning they are harder to reach than ever before. That’s why having or building individual relationships with reporters and editors is essential to any public relations strategy today – and this will only become truer in the coming years. As information proliferates and newsmakers become busier, the old maxim of “it’s not what you know but who you know” perseveres. Knowing the ins and outs of what a reporter or editor covers, what they think about key issues and what type of information will get their attention is paramount to obtaining ongoing coverage. We might live in an era of technological displacement and growing impersonalization, but when it comes to public relations strategy, the human element will only become more central.
There’s no question that the media as we know it is going through the agony of change. But it’s important to remember that the fundamentals of having a good message and good relationships remain through it all. As the way people consume and process news changes, we communicators need to just continue to evolve ourselves, as we have always done.
A robust public relations strategy is key to keeping up with the ever-changing media landscape and world around us – It elevates your brand and helps you build essential media relationships that align with your business goals. Partner with our team of seasoned PR professionals today.