By Lareece Blenman and Elisa Litvin
In the world of public relations (PR), close collaboration with media remains as vital as ever. It's the cornerstone of our work, ensuring that the stories and angles we craft reach their intended audiences. However, recent changes accelerated by the pandemic and digitalisation have introduced new challenges for PR professionals when interacting with the media.
For this National Publicist Day, our team of UK experts—from our junior to the most senior members—came together to explore the industry's evolution, and the strategies that can empower PR professionals to navigate this ever-evolving media landscape.
The changing tides
While it’s always been tricky to pin down a journalist over the phone, post-pandemic, it’s become even harder due to the shift in working cultures, as we go from working in offices, to at home. According to Katie Shuff, one of our Account Directors, “It’s become more challenging to build strong collaborative partnerships with journalists in recent years, as you’re often just another email in their inbox.”
Alice Holton, a Senior Account Manager at Clarity, highlighted the shift from in-person briefings and print publications to a digital-first approach. Meanwhile, Lara Wells, Junior Account Executive, pointed out that the media discussion has shifted from a pro-work-from-home to a back-to-the-office mentality during her short time in the industry. These insights emphasise the dynamic nature of the media relations landscape, and the rapid change brought about by the pandemic. However, COVID isn’t the only event shaking up the PR industry in the long run.
Cat Biggart, our Senior Vice President, notes the rise of digitalisation impacting the media sector. With editorial teams operating more efficiently and placing increased demands on journalists, they now have far less time to devote to their stories. “While measurement used to be based on how many print copies were sold, today's digital media landscape means there are a multitude of ways in which to measure the journey of the reader—from how they discovered the article to what they clicked on—all of which impacts the approach journalists take in their writing,” says Cat. That’s why it’s now more important than ever for PRs to do their research into publications, individual journalists and their readers to truly crack the code.
Ways to become a reliable PR contact
We all know that journalists get thousands of emails a day from PR practitioners. The key to breaking through the noise is building and maintaining strong relationships with journalists, taking the time to understand their needs and daily challenges.
Katie believes that, “Being a reliable PR contact is key to time-poor journalists.” From sending client updates and news announcements to reaching out with relevant commentary on a breaking news story, playing the long game with journalists and being as proactive and helpful as possible works best.
Cat, on the other hand, points out that nothing can replace meeting people face-to-face. Offering to host them for lunch or coffee and engaging with them to understand what makes them tick is important.
Lara and Alice both highlight the importance of offering stories that genuinely interest journalists, a key detail often overlooked. To secure media stories, Lara recommends ‘crafting more personalised pitches based on a journalist’s previous coverage’, whereas Alice suggests ‘researching in advance to ensure the story you’re pitching is one they’ll want to hear about.’ By being a trustworthy and reliable PR contact, you'll be able to establish a positive reputation with journalists and increase your chances of success in the industry.
The future of the media landscape is AI
The consensus across industries is that generative AI tools have the potential to revolutionise the way that we work, and PR is no exception. Katie, Lara, Alice, and Cat all have their unique visions for how AI tools like ChatGPT will take centre stage in the future of the PR and media landscape.
Katie hopes that the future of PR-journalist relationships will be more collaborative and less transactional as a result of AI, saying, “It will be interesting to see how AI tools such as ChatGPT are rolled out across publications.” With the time saved, the hope is that there will be more opportunities for face-to-face meetings with PRs, leading to more meaningful relationships. Similarly, Cat predicts that AI-generated content will become increasingly prevalent in the media industry, leading to a significant increase in content and output from both established and emerging media outlets. However, she also argues that "While developments in technology like AI may be seen as a threat to traditional journalists, investigative journalism will become even more important for those consuming content as consumers seek out high-quality and trustworthy sources of information.”
Alice and Lara, on the other hand, highlighted the potential impact of social media platforms on the PR and media sector. While Lara predicts the rise of ‘social media pitching’ on platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn, Alice argues that to keep up with the instant gratification that social media provides, media outlets will inevitably change their approach to reporting, leading to a shift to video stories. This will allow media outlets to reach a broader audience and engage with them more effectively.
In our ever-evolving media landscape, PR professionals must be quick to adapt and master the art of building lasting bonds with journalists. The pandemic catapulted us into a remote work era and pushed us towards a digital-first mindset, making it increasingly challenging to capture journalists' attention. However, the power of crafting personalised, relevant pitches and proactively aiding news coverage cannot be underestimated. Amidst these changes, including the rise of AI, remember that trust, reliability, and adaptability continue to be the beating heart of PR success in today's media landscape.
For further information on AI’s impact on Comms and Marketing, check out our AI report here.
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