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Weathering the Storm: Media Relations in 2024

Palm tree blowing in a storm.

Recently, I was in Boston to see Lana Del Rey perform at Fenway Park. Just as the show was starting, a frighteningly massive thunderstorm suddenly rolled through with some of the worst rain I had ever seen. But we stayed calm under pressure, evacuated the stadium and went undercover for safety. Reflecting on that experience has me thinking about adaptability and flexibility, important traits in life, and especially in public relations.

In the last year alone, we have seen a huge shift in the media landscape: Fast Company notes that in 2023, 21,400 media jobs were lost, the most since 2009, excluding the COVID year of 2020. Media layoffs are not just statistics; they are seismic shifts that affect how reporters tell stories and how effective PR professionals can be. Fewer journalists means fewer places to pitch stories, more use of freelancers, and a decline in the depth and breadth of reporting. Amidst this disruption, PR professionals must stay flexible, agile and adaptable to weather this storm.

As PR professionals chart forward in an uncertain world, staying informed about journalists’ preferences and industry trends is key. Cision’s 2024 State of Media Report, which surveyed over 3,000 reporters about industry trends, noted that “news” still makes news – 74% of journalists surveyed indicated that press releases remain their preferred form of content to receive from public relations professionals. Original research was next at 61%, and exclusive access at 55%. The data tell us that specific, relevant and tailored content is a powerful means of media outreach. By prioritizing this approach, we can build stronger relationships with journalists, which is vital in this disrupted landscape.

Quality over Quantity

Cultivating strong relationships with reporters who work on topics relevant to your clients is a powerful way to weather the storm. In outreach, taking the time to dive into your list of contacts and ensure that the reporters on it are the best fit is genuinely worth it; a list of 15 spot-on contacts is definitely superior to a cluttered list of 50+ that includes irrelevant contacts. This allows you to hone your message and find journalists for whom your story is truly right. Recently, in pitching a new mental health program, we took a deep dive into our media list and identified reporters who had covered similar programs and would be drawn to this new one. Referencing past coverage is a strong way to enhance a relationship and provide well-researched, concise, and ready-to-use information to reporters. This saves them time and increases the likelihood of your story being covered or your expert being interviewed.

Social Media as an Asset

Earned media in traditional news outlets remains an invaluable way to build credibility, but the shifting landscape requires us to broaden our thinking. A Pew study from late 2023 found that “roughly one-third of Americans aged 18–29 regularly get their news from TikTok.” We adapted to this new norm recently at TRG, launching an influencer campaign to combat health misinformation on TikTok. On behalf of a client, we engaged influencers on a disease-specific educational program so that those using the platform are pointed to accurate and helpful medical information. This allowed us to reach people seeking health information on the platform, particularly younger people. Beyond TikTok, other platforms like LinkedIn might be better suited for reaching a professional audience. Understanding and using the strengths of each platform will enhance the reach and impact of your message, despite a shifting landscape.

More than ever, adaptability, flexibility and foresight are the best ways to weather the storms. Embracing tailored messages, building meaningful relationships and utilizing new strategies on social media platforms are not just reactive measures but proactive strategies that empower us to thrive, no matter the climate.

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