Wednesday, February 3, 2010
Part 1: Pressures of Publishing in 2010
The last 18 months have been hell on journalists and, therefore, to a lesser degree, on media relations professionals too. To adequately explain what late 2008 and 2009 have been like in our field, we’ve got to start with the journalist’s view. Hence the two part approach to this post.
In 2008 and 2009:
• Journalists feared for their jobs. Therefore, they wanted only to cover the most compelling stories. (To understand what a compelling story is, see our last post.)
• Journalists were forced to cover more beats. One columnist we work with had his column frequency and coverage area doubled, was assigned obituaries and asked to contribute regular human interest profiles. Another had to produce streaming video product reviews for the paper's website while blogging and producing daily business news coverage.
• Journalists had less space to cover stories. Page counts shrunk in print publications and with them coverage opportunities became tighter too. A story that might have merited coverage two years ago now literally had nowhere to run.
• And, of course, journalists did lose their jobs in layoff rounds and many of the press contacts we'd made over the years were downsized.
In this environment, (W)right On Communications simply worked harder and smarter to give our clients' stories the edge.
In 2008, we began adopting more social media strategies to find additional avenues to deliver client messages and help our clients engage with their audiences and stakeholders. We watched as traditional reporters and columnists joined Twitter and Facebook and news media began to embrace real-time social media tools to break news and encourage reader participation and commentary. (In that regard, the trends weren’t all bad – given a different set of circumstances, this would have been pretty cool. But the triple threat of Craigslist, media fragmentation and decimated advertising budgets took a lot of the fun out of it.)
Our support of traditional media relations continued, however, with a greater than ever emphasis on best practices.
What are these best practices you ask? At their heart, they’re consuming traditional and social media in frequent and large doses. We read a lot! That means blogs, newspapers, and magazines as well as journalists on Twitter and Facebook. This is how we know who’s writing what, what’s new with who (or, er, with whom), and what they’ve been writing about lately as well as what they are likely to write about in the future. In addition to this, we’ve had to stay on top of trends in our own industry, first and foremost, but our clients’ industries as well.
Such research has always been necessary to produce results for our clients, but never more so. It’s not just the current economic environment. It’s also the low barriers to entry in the PR profession--from easy leads via HARO to easy and cheap press release distribution via PRWeb. These tools as well as more expensive but convenient databases like Vocus and Cision that allow people to send thousands of emails with the push a button mean that journalists are receiving 400 emails or more a day—and many to most of them are either completely outside of the journalist's beat or perhaps in their beat but containing no real news.
So, yes, sticking to best practices is, unfortunately, the way to stand out and serve the last journalists standing.
And, no, 2009 was not an easy year for media or PR professionals and 2010 may see some small improvement, but for those who haven’t cut corners and have kept their skills, knowledge and relationships fresh, the outlook is much brighter.
Stay tuned for our part two post, in which we acknowledge more of the perils of our industry.