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 firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a consultation today!