Who’s got the answers? Three PR industry obstacles in 2021  

by | Aug 3, 2021 | Analysis, Public Relations

PR practitioners have always faced challenges. It’s part of what makes working in the industry so rewarding. But according to the responses we received to a survey back in June, there are a few challenges PR pros would really like the solutions to, especially as parts of the world begin to transition to the ‘new normal’.

After analyzing the responses to the survey question, “what has your single biggest challenge been when it comes to earning media coverage for your business or clients”, we discovered three key industry obstacles:

Relevancy in the COVID news cycle

With the shakeup of business-as-usual in 2020, whole industries suddenly found themselves fighting to remain relevant. Two respondents in travel and tourism expressed their difficulties with, “keeping a destination relevant from a tourism perspective when you cannot travel there” and the “reduced coverage of my niche means scrambling for new contacts and creating new evergreen news.”

No one has a perfect timeline on when COVID may no longer hog the headlines, especially since it remains a devastating reality in parts of the world. But in countries where vaccination rates are climbing and people are starting to get back to a sense of normalcy, PR pros are wondering if getting placement for non-pandemic related stories will start to increase. As one survey respondent said, the “past year has been reactive only.” Hopefully as 2021 continues, media relations professionals will be able to practice proactive storytelling for their clients and brands again.

Pay to play

Owned and paid media are important for marketing and promotional purposes, but magic happens when a brand is featured by a trusted media source. There’s a credibility and authority that comes with a featured placement that can’t often be had with other channels.

However, PR pros are concerned that “pay to play” is increasingly becoming the expectation for earning coverage. As one respondent noted, “For consumer products and services, we are finding nearly all digital publications require the product or service to be part of an affiliate program,” with another similarly stating, “If my client does not have an affiliate marketing program, they cannot get consideration.”

Getting a response

This challenge goes beyond the how of creating a well-researched and well-targeted pitch. Respondents are finding that even when using the right tools of the trade (the media database for instance) and following best practices for pitching, there’s still no interest. Like this one respondent who said: “Journalists, for the most part, aren’t responding to pitches, even when they seem perfect for them and are tailored to their coverage/beat.”

Under circumstances like these, following up seems all the more integral. But if one or two emails went unanswered already, what possible good could a third do? Mourning the loss of the telephone is a familiar sentiment in the industry now. One respondent said they miss having actual conversations with journalists and another bluntly stated that their greatest challenge is “not being able to phone people.”

So, who has the solutions?

We have a hunch that the 30+ experts speaking at the third annual Earned Media Mastery virtual summit this August will have some fresh perspectives on the matter. In over 20 sessions, our lineup of speakers will be getting into the weeds of earned media, covering topics like the second day story angle to who you need to know in the broadcast newsroom to connecting with journalists on social. Registration is free and all sessions are available on-demand for three days, August 26-28.

After reading this article, we think you might find these three sessions of particular interest:

  • Superior Media Pitching Strategies for the New Normal, a keynote presentation by Michael Smart, PR coach and media relations expert
  • Stars of PR: How These Pros Cut Through the Nosie, a panel discussion with the three winners of the Bulldog PR Award for Media Relations Professional of 2020
  • Getting Inside the Minds of Journalists: Journalists Tell-All, a panel discussion with three working journalists

Joy Knowles
Joy Knowles is the Content Marketing Manager at Agility PR Solutions. Joy has worked in an agency and been part of several internal communications teams during her career, helping to grow the companies’ client and customer bases through strategic communications, content planning and creation, social media management, and project and client management. Her education is in public relations.


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