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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

It’s a Small World

It’s a small world and it just keeps getting smaller. Layoffs in the Twin Cities market and across the country are resulting in sparsely populated newsrooms and reporters are now pulling double or triple duty. It is too soon to tell if the traditional media shrinkage is caused by the economic downturn or by the growing popularity of new media. It is certain, however that if trends continue, public relations will be left in a precarious position.

The Star Tribune laid-off 58 employees in February, WCCO laid-off eight last month, and the Rake is no longer publishing a print version. At this rate, we could be pitching a skeleton crew in no time. While newsrooms shrink, the news hole has remained the same; and public relations professionals may need to pick up the slack. In order to do so, we must work smarter, faster, and more creatively.

With the growing news crunch, reporters are less able to conduct in-depth research and to leave their desks to track down a story. How can we help? We should anticipate their need for information and include backgrounders with all press materials. Same goes for television reporters, camera crews cannot be everywhere at once. If we can include B-roll with our pitch, we will help fill in the gaps. We need to go that extra mile to make news stories easy to run. That’s fast PR.

In addition, to ease the strain, we can be more conscious about having available experts and interview opportunities at all times. We can assess if a satellite media tour makes more sense. And we can always answer our phones if our name is on a press release. That’s smart PR.

Creative pitches are often rewarded with placements, but as outlets shape-shift (like the Rake) or disappear entirely, a new variety of creatively becomes necessary. The well-worn avenues to the media are no longer a sure thing. Traditional media outlets are evaporating, and new media opportunities keep popping up. We are still playing catch up on how to leverage them. Maybe a step outside our comfort zone of standard protocols and an embrace of new opportunities and approaches may prove fruitful. That’s creative PR.

Of course none of this is earth shattering or new (these ideas have long been have been kicked around for a while) but as the media landscape continues to change, it is important to stay ahead of the curve.

Allison Dent
JOUR 3279
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