By Tracey Benjamini, Senior Account Executive, R&J Public Relations
One of the few constants in Public Relations is that the media is always changing. The past ten years have seen a steady decrease in print media popularity, with readers and advertisers shifting their focus to online publications. Many of the country’s most popular and reputable newspapers and print publications have been forced to make massive layoffs and consolidate personnel. On the online front, new news sites are popping up and taking off seemingly overnight, while once popular sources are shut down or consolidated with larger publications. With shifting job opportunities comes a “musical chairs” of the media landscape.
Then there are the mega-mergers and buyouts. An announcement came just a few weeks ago that Verizon will be acquiring AOL for $4.4 billion. As a PR professional my immediate thought was what does this mean for news sites such as the Huffington Post, Engadget, and TechCrunch, all of which are owned by AOL. For now, AOL representatives claim that their news sites will continue to be part of the company moving forward, but contradictory reports state the company is looking for an investor to spin-off the Huffington Post. With my experience, I find it hard to believe that the Verizon acquisition won’t have some ramifications on AOL’s news content sites, especially surrounding personnel.
The ever-changing media landscape is enough to make some heads spin, but in the world of PR this is our area of expertise. We know the media. One of the advantages of hiring a PR agency to run your media relations is we are constantly plugged into what is going on in the industry. We get updates on all the latest mergers, moves and shutdowns and many times from the people who are affected the most, the journalists.
Part of being a successful PR professional is building good working relationships with our media counterparts. They lean on us for story ideas and information as much as we look to them to secure coverage for our clients. Additionally, working with the same journalists for so long you get to know them on a more personal level. You understand their career goals just as you would any colleague or client, and when something happens, whether good or bad, they let you know. Just the other week I received an email from an editor from Family Circle with whom I had been working on a piece for a couple months. I quickly noticed that the email came from her personal address and not her Meredith Corporation account. She was emailing me to let me know that she had fallen victim to the most recent round of layoffs at the publishing company, but gave me a heads up on where the piece was left off and who would be taking over. These are the types of emails that only come after building relationships with your media contacts.
Media relations is not as simple as it seems on the surface. People not involved in the communications or marketing field tend to take what we do for granted. I’ve come across many people who think all we do is blindly send out products for review or blanket a group of media with a pitch or press release and they can easily handle the task. But success in this industry takes knowledge and time. It’s important to have a finger on the pulse of what’s happening in the media landscape and to cultivate media relationships. Your sales team has enough on their plates right now. Media relations is best left to us, the experts.