After recent conversations with public relations professionals, journalists and others in the business world, I’ve identified the five trends that people say will help you get the ink you’ve been looking for – or that will help you better understand how the ground under public relations continues to shift.
Fresh Blood: The newspaper industry is in the midst of a massive sea change, the consequence of which has been a large number of layoffs and buyouts engineered to cut costs as print readership flags and advertising revenue shrinks. Beats are disappearing or shifting, and many journalists are either out of work or covering topics previously foreign to them. For public relations professionals this means that years of relationship-building may end with a pink slip or a reassignment. Layoffs and buyouts tend to affect older journalists first, largely because those journalists are paid more. These veterans are replaced by younger journalists.
The younger crop of journalists grew up with the Internet and is more attuned to social networking and instant messaging, among other forms of communication and relationship-building. They know the basic tenants of journalism, but they’re often more free-spirited, especially when it comes to sourcing. Get to know your new contact and ask them straight-up what the best way to communicate with them is. A conversation or two with a new reporter should reveal some tendencies and give you insight to how intelligent, demanding and pliable the newbie is.
Meanwhile, when a journalist you have a relationship with is laid off or reassigned, the smart – and professional and nice – thing to do is send the person a note telling them that you appreciate the work you did together and that you will always be of service. Inquire about the journalist’s replacement to see if you gain some insight into the new person that you will be dealing with. The most important thing is that you don’t burn bridges. Journalists recycle from one media outlet to another – and they take grudges with them.
Blogging for Dollars: Bloggers are also feeling the brunt of the economy as companies that publish blogs as their main line of business are cutting staff and shuttering publications. It’s the independent bloggers, however, that we have to worry about.
The vast majority of bloggers, including a great number of the influential class, earn their livings doing something other than blogging. When these bloggers’ regular source of income is constrained or dries up, it not only may limit the time they spend blogging, but it may change how they blog.
“I’ve worked with him for a few years now and he’s always been pleasant and responsive,” a PR person told me, referring to a technology blogger who attracts an important audience. “Over the past six weeks he’s been unresponsive and the tone of his blog has changed. He sort of hates everything now. I found out last week that he was laid off from his regular job. I think that explains the new, unfriendly attitude.”
Ride the Good News Train: Editors, producers and reporters are well aware of how bad the economy is and how little good news there is coming from the business world.
“We’re starved for good news,” a reporter at a business publication told me. “I’m listening to pitches now that I would have never listened to two years ago.”
Good news comes in many forms, but the journalists I spoke to say that they’re most interested in hearing about: companies that are actually growing their business; organizations that are helping those hurt by the economy and housing crisis and who can provide examples of how they’ve helped specific individuals; and companies that are doing something unique in the face of the downturn, such as cutting executive pay to avoid layoffs or throwing weekly pizza and beer parties to build camaraderie.
Green Is the Color: The Green Movement continues to gain steam, and journalists are increasingly looking for ways to tie the environment into stories.
“One of the angles I’m beginning to explore is how ‘green’ houses are going to be when home building eventually picks up again,” a science reporter told me.
A number of journalists I spoke to said they believe that Americans are becoming more “organic” in their thinking after years of over-consumption have resulted in mountains of consumer debt. Companies offering up green alternatives should focus on long-term cost-savings and tie pitches into the economy, reminding people that if they had made smart decisions five years ago, they may have more money in their pockets now.
Meet the New Boss: With a new administration in the White House, business leaders who aren’t being dragged in front of Congress to explain huge pay packages should be on the offensive, writing op-eds and making television appearances to position themselves as “thought leaders.”
“We’re talking to our members and telling them that now is the time to turn their CEOs into activists,” a veteran lobbyist told me. “The Obama administration is much more open to hearing new ideas and they take business leaders very seriously because they’re the people who control jobs.”
PR and lobbying professionals I spoke with said that charismatic CEOs who can offer up pragmatic ideas that will add jobs to the economy or foster innovation should be getting their ideas out in front of the media and the public, the latter through a blog, Twitter or other avenue.
This article, written by Ben Silverman, originally appeared in PR Fuel (http://www.ereleases.com/prfuel), a free weekly newsletter from eReleases (http://www.ereleases.com), the online leader in affordable press release distribution. To subscribe to PR Fuel, visit: http://www.ereleases.com/prfuel/subscribe/.