What recent media layoffs mean for the future of public relations

by | Feb 14, 2019 | Analysis, Public Relations

More than 1,000 journalists lost their jobs recently as Verizon Media, BuzzFeed and Gannett announced deep cuts to their newsrooms. HuffPost’s entire Opinion section. Cut. The national desk at BuzzFeed. Cut. Dozens of local journalists at Gannett newspapers across the country. Gone.

It’s a blow to journalism and a shame for the reporters who lost their jobs. While this round of layoffs is the latest in a trend of newsrooms scaling back and realigning their structures to stay in business, it likely won’t be the last.

The effects of these layoffs and this evolving media landscape have an undeniable impact on public relations. And as newsrooms adapt to stay in the game, communications professionals, especially those in media relations, should do the same.

Here are a few tips to navigate these inevitable changes and set yourself and your clients up for long-term success:

Emphasize quality over quantity

It’s not how many reporters you can send a release to—it’s who you know. (By the way, if you’re still sending a bunch of press releases, stop!) Identify a few outlets that reach your primary audience and focus on developing relationships with reporters covering your issue at those outlets. Three reporters who consistently answer your emails and calls are far more useful than 300 reporters who never respond to your releases.

Foster new relationships

Now is the time to develop relationships with new reporters who may start pulling double duty to cover a wider range of beats. It’s also the time to consider media outlets and types of media (such as podcasts and smaller trades) you haven’t previously pitched.

Step up your Twitter tracking

If you have existing relationships with reporters who got laid off or who were key players covering your issue, track them on Twitter. They may get hired at another outlet, and just like that, you have a contact at a new media outlet that you may not have had before.

Expand your communications strategy

While media relations will always be an important part of PR, it cannot and should not be your only method of communication. Start expanding your communications strategy to include different digital platforms, partnership development and conference attendance. A good communications plan should include multiple channels for conveying your message to your audiences.

Set realistic expectations of success

Everyone wants a story in The New York Times or one that gets picked up by every major outlet. But, now more than ever, it’s important to manage expectations and set realistic measurable objectives. For example: Aim for developing at least two strong relationships with reporters in outlets that reach your audience, step up your trade media relationships, and track the quality of your hits instead of quantity.

Finally, if you know a reporter who has lost their job, reach out to them. Ask how they’re doing and how you can help.

Public relations can’t survive without media. And the best journalists know that publicists with integrity add tremendous value to their stories. Applying these strategies will enable you to continue to thrive in your career and bring value to your organization or client, even in the face of an uncertain media landscape.

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Sangeetha Sarma
Sangeetha Sarma is an Account Supervisor at Vanguard Communications in Washington, D.C.

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