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Media Relations Has Never Been Harder. Here's Why.

Updated: 7 days ago

If you were to ask 10 people what a public relations person does, it’s likely that a majority of them would say that we work with the media to get our clients coverage. Of course, this is at least partially true.

 


The practice is more accurately known as publicity or media relations, and any PR or strategic communications firm worth their salt has significant experience with it. It’s a tactic that we use to tell stories and amplify our clients to external audiences, especially the general public. Because of its tactical nature, media relations probably isn’t an agency’s sole focus or capability; it’s one of the many tools in their toolbelt.

 

Since the beginning of my career, media relations has been a foundational skill in my arsenal. It used to be most of what I did in the early years, and even though the percentage of time I spend on it has dwindled over the years it’s always remained a core skill and capability of mine. It’s also been a component of most strategic communications programs that Game Changer has built and executed for clients over the years.

 

Over that time, our industry has changed tremendously (I’ll continue to explore these changes in future posts). As much or more than anything else, media relations has evolved – and I’d argue it’s harder to do well and be successful with it than it’s ever been. There are several reasons for this:

 

  • The economics of media have changed dramatically. The advent and evolution of the Internet made it easier than ever before to get information – and in most cases, free to do so. Because of this, people have flocked to them and the audience sizes of traditional media (newspapers, TV, radio, etc.) have been decimated. Consequently, the amount that any media organization can charge for advertising (the lifeblood of any media organization) has dropped off a cliff.

  • The total amount of print space, airtime, etc. that the media use for editorial content (we call it “news hole” in the business) has significantly decreased. Because media organizations produce less revenue, they have had to cut back on staff, offerings, services, etc. to try to stay in business. We’ve seen a long, slow decline in media resources.

  • Competition for that available news hole has only increased. There are more companies and organizations, with more stories to tell, with more communications professionals trying to tell them, than ever before. And there are fewer media professionals to produce those stories. More competition + less availability = much higher difficulty.

  • Pay-for-play schemes have been on the rise. As a way to generate some revenue, some media offer opportunities to publish articles and pieces for a particular fee. Sometimes this can blur the line between paid and earned media – or editorial and advertising. It also has further decreased available news hole in media.

  • There are more media outlets and channels than ever before, and more are launched seemingly every day. While this can be a plus due to potentially more news hole being created, it still requires a professional to follow these outlets and determine how best to engage with them. The amount of research and preparation we have to do for the same work has steadily increased.

  • Relationships with media are harder to build than ever. Due to all of the above, people who work in media have so much to do. Print reporters have to do online pieces and video recaps of stories they write. TV reporters have to shoot and edit their own video, on top of researching and producing their work. Gone are the days when a reporter could just focus on reporting and writing a story; there’s so much more on their plate now. It only makes reaching and working with them harder to do.

 

Yes, media relations is harder than ever, but it’s not impossible. In my next post, I’ll talk about some of the inside, tried-and-true tricks of the trade...things that have helped me optimize both quantity and quality of coverage over the decades.

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