September 26, 2016

Helping PR pros make smarter decisions

What do changing media business models mean for PR pros?

What do changing media business models mean for PR pros?

The business pressures on the media, both print and digital, continue to increase. It seems as though a day doesn’t go by without some new story about a publication or website trying something new to draw in viewers (and thus advertisers)—or stories about those who, despite their best efforts, are now engaged in layoffs.

Changes in the media landscape will inevitably mean changes in the way that public relations professionals do their work. This is true even for PR fields that aren’t focused on media relations—even though that’s the first thing that jumps to many people’s minds when one mentions PR. The public’s attention is fragmented across many, many different channels, and whether it’s the earned media of traditional media relations or shared media on social platforms, PR pros are now both working with the media to share messaging, and are in competition with the media for eyeballs on social platforms.

So what exactly does this shifting dynamic mean for PR pros?

Smaller newsrooms mean personal connections are even more important. Finding out who covers your issues and bombarding them with email news releases isn’t going to work—but establishing a relationships will help. Stay on top of what they cover, and be helpful to them if possible. It doesn’t guarantee that your issues will get covered but it’s a good start. Be a reliable resource, and cultivate working relationships with niche reporters.

Is your story interesting? It’s not enough anymore that it’s newsworthy. The New York Times recently ran two pieces covering changes in the media, and the story titled “For News Outlets Squeezed from the Middle, It’s Bend or Bust” pointed out that there are now complex analytics available for almost every conceivable aspect of a piece. While the length of a story is a factor (shorter is generally better), long pieces of 8,000 words have scored well too. The stories that scored the worst are the humdrum pieces that detail the actual functioning of government, standard business stories—anything that seems routine.

Focus and invest time in the areas within your reach. In looking at this changing landscape, the PESO model becomes even more important. Of the Paid, Earned, Shared, Owned “arms” of the PESO model, only one (Earned) is dependent upon a separate person to execute. While it is therefore in a sense now even more valuable, it will also be increasingly harder to secure high quality, highly coveted, earned media as news organizations contract their reporting, limiting it to the types of pieces that typically perform better analytically. This means that the remaining three areas: Paid, Shared, and Owned—will increasingly be the “go-to” workhorses of messaging. Cultivate strong audiences in shared channels, and produce interesting content for owned channels.

Traditional media channels are looking at many ways to increase their revenue streams as traditional and online advertising dollars are no longer reliable sources. Bloomberg reports that the New York Times is partnering with a grocery delivery company for home delivery of the ingredients in recipes featured on its Cooking section—by delivering meal kits, the paper is now competing with services like Blue Apron. If this idea proves to be a successful revenue stream, things will only get more complicated from here.

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About The Author

Jennifer Zingsheim Phillips is the founder of 4L Strategies, and has worked in communications and public affairs for just over 20 years. Her background includes work in politics, government, lobbying, public affairs PR work, content creation, and digital and social communications and media analysis.

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