The Numbers Tell The Story of Why Media Relations Must Change

January 30th, 2013 by Matt Friedman

There are some new numbers that illustrate some facts we have known for years, while some remain in denial. Instead of heeding change, some PR firms are still charging indefinite monthly retainer fees exclusively for media relations for clients now too small to be covered consistently, as if it was still 1998. Some in the PR business are still blasting out press releases to large untargeted media lists, which has never worked and certainly won’t work now. We also know that some clients and firms still think what was a news story in 2003 will still always be a news story today. But, the statistics starkly demonstrate that the trends and new ways of doing business should go hand-in-hand.

The latest numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that the Information Sector, which includes journalists of all types, lost one million jobs since 2001, the year these jobs had been at their peak since 1990. 2001 was probably the last great year of employment for newspapers, magazines TV and radio while fledgling online outlets were also relatively well-staffed. The forecast for the future shows a corps of journalists continuing to shrink, albeit at a lower rate. The Bureau expects a 7.5 percent job loss for reporters and editors specifically, by 2020.

All of this should force new thinking in cases where it’s overdue. PR needs to save news pitches for the types of news that remaining outlets and journalists still actually cover. Everything else that must be communicated to an audience should be saved for other platforms. PR pros need to help the remaining journalists do their jobs in the ways they now have to do them, not necessarily in the ways that used to benefit the PR people. Those in PR who are among the million who left the “Information Sector” need to remind clients of the fundamentals that apply from their days in the newsroom, blended with advice on the modern realities of the media.

These numbers bring to life the tough times endured by news outlets and journalists themselves. As professionals who work with journalists for at least part of our jobs, we must all show respect for the “new normal” in news.

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