What cuts in journalism jobs mean for PR

There are six public relations professionals for every journalist.

In 1980, the ratio was 1.2 to 1.

These ratios, pulled from recent U.S. Department of Labor statistics, illustrate just how dramatically the media relations landscape has fluctuated in the last 40 years. Especially in 2019, it’s clear that the media industry – and by extension public relations and media relations – is shifting as a result of waves of layoffs, changes in business models and the rise of influencers and citizen journalists in the internet age.

Below, we explore the evolution of journalism, what it means for the PR industry and the role of PR pros during the transformation.

What’s the reality?
Earlier this year, local and national news organizations announced waves of layoffs as a result of traditional newsroom downsizing and budget cuts. The latest reports show more than 2,200 people lost their jobs in this latest round of layoffs, setting a dark tone for 2019.

The print industry in particular is seeing an increase in layoffs as a result of recent transitions. Between January 2017 and April 2018, at least 36 percent of the largest newspapers across the U.S. – as well as at least 23 percent of the highest-traffic digital-native news outlets – experienced layoffs, according to a PEW Research study. Additionally, buyouts and mergers have clouded the landscape in a fight to find the right business models to bring monetization and higher profitability to online media in particular.

This news is negative for all of us — journalists, media outlets, PR people, citizens and democracy.

In this landscape, it’s also important to realize the pay gap that exists between PR professionals. Back in 2000, the pay gap between the PR pros and reporters was a little more than $6,000 annually. In 2017, the difference in salary increased $16,000. With a figure like that, it’s clear why many reporters are leaving their roles and transitioning into related fields such as PR, marketing and advertising.

What does it mean?
As the audience of journalists shrinks and number of PR pros grows, it’s harder than ever to get media coverage. Because journalists are heavily outnumbered, they are constantly bombarded with pitches.

To combat the clutter, PR pros must tailor each message to specific reporters and think like a journalist by following some basic journalistic principles such as:

  • Avoid selling and start storytelling, as journalists and as PR professionals, our first goal is storytelling, not selling.
  • Know what’s newsworthy by following five key elements to newsworthiness: timing, significance, proximity, prominence and human interest.
  • Understand your audience by asking: Who are your customers? Who are your clients? And, who are the ideal readers of the story you’re hoping to tell?
  • Verify and research your content, from media pitch, a white paper or a thought leadership article.
  • Strategically structure your writing by following the traditional pyramid model. Your most important and most interesting content belongs at the very top of the pyramid.

What can we do about it?
Despite the many changes brought on by the digital revolution, there continues to be an ongoing need for a new, yet free and honest, press that can be supported by PR pros.

The PR industry should be dedicated to supporting the growth of traditional and non-traditional journalism, and PR pros can have a profound impact on the evolution of journalism by engaging in activities such as:

  • Read news to learn more about the topics impacting your clients, the community and the world at large. This can also help you learn the names and styles of key journalists that you’re wanting to build a relationship with.
  • To directly fund journalism, you should individually support or encourage your agency or company to subscribe to news outlets locally, as well as publications in client verticals.
  • Develop new skills that can make the jobs of journalists easier, such as learning how to use a DSLR camera or write a concise headline to increase the odds of a story being picked up.
  • Consider working with non-traditional media, such as influencers and citizen journalists to spread client stories.
  • Hire journalists looking for a career change to the PR profession, as their skills and inside know-how are invaluable for storytelling and pitching efforts.

No matter how much the media industry shifts, one fact remains: Both professions will continue to work together and rely on one another for many decades to come.

Is your business looking for a way to cut through the clutter and reach key journalists? Contact Lauryn Gray at lauryn@dittoepr.com to schedule a consultation today!

Nice to Meet You, Real World

There is no other way to put it except to say that I spent the morning of my graduation from Indiana University in tears. And I don’t mean a few drips down my cheek. The thought of leaving my sometimes crazy, sometimes lazy lifestyle put me into quite a slump.

Due to lack of sunshine, I spent my first two weeks indoors in a constant state of confusion and uncertainty of what was happening in my life, but it’s safe to say that I have made quite an emotional comeback. I’ve left what my friends and I call “fake life” behind (at least for the majority of my time) and entered the “real world,” as it’s so often called.

It’s amazing how quickly my self-professed “depression” has completely disappeared. I’ve put on my “big-girl” pants (or skirts, I suppose) and took the next step in my life by joining the Dittoe PR team as an intern.  Since arriving Monday morning, I’ve already acquired information and skills I hadn’t already known or used. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised since Dittoe PR is one of the top PR firms in Indianapolis.

Over the last four years, I have completed my fair share of internships. While not all of them have been directly related to public relations, I’ve used each opportunity to learn something new. But, there’s one thing about the PR related internships that differs from the rest: I truly enjoy(ed) them.

I was one of the few college students who chose their major in high school and stuck with it. The beauty of majoring in journalism was that I could change my concentration without changing my major.

I started in newspaper, moved on to magazine, dipped my feet into design and finally landed in public relations. Why public relations? It involves thinking of innovative and creative ideas and implementing them into action for your clients. It’s more than writing, making something look pretty or editing a story.

So, here I am – four amazing years later – brainstorming, creating, communicating and taking action. And although it’s only been a few days, I love it.

And while the light at the end of the tunnel doesn’t involve an entire week of Little 500 events or perhaps the flexibility to take a “personal day” for no particular reason, I’m excited for what is yet to come. Fake life was great, but maybe real life isn’t so bad after all.

Journalism Student to PR Pro… (in training)

Public relations is one of those professions that we often see depicted in somewhat glorified roles on television and in the movies. In fact, two of my all-time favorite TV characters are Samantha Jones of Sex & the City, and Chauna from Entourage, both PR representatives to the rich and elite. Not only are these women both incredibly stylish and accustomed to living the “high life,” they are also smart, quick-witted, independent and strong women that don’t take you-know-what from anybody. In other words, they’re my role models.

As silly as it sounds, I believe the portrayals of these women (although skewed and fairly unrealistic) were my first taste of the PR world and sparked my initial interest in this career. When I first got to college, I was very uncertain as to which major and career path was right for me, hence my postponement of declaring a major until second semester of sophomore year. However, after some soul-searching and research into the different colleges that make up Indiana University, I decided that the School of Journalism was the place for me. I also took it as a sign (perhaps stupidly) that the astrological gods advise that Gemini’s like myself are meant to work in the world of journalism.

So here I am now, working as a summer intern at Dittoe PR. Although I’m still mourning my departure from the utopia that is IU, I’m thrilled to have been accepted as the newest member of the Dittoe PR team! It’s only my first week here and I don’t think I can even describe the amount that I’ve already learned and the new perspectives I know I will undoubtedly take away from this experience.

Right now, my future plan is to attend the University of Miami Law School in the fall, but you never know, maybe a full-time career as a PR professional awaits me in the future! Anyways, I’m always hearing people say the last thing the world needs is another lawyer…Maybe I’ll do the world a favor and be the next Samantha Jones instead (minus the promiscuity of course).