It’s no secret that journalism remains in the throes of disruption. Print newspapers and magazines continue to fold or shrink, editorial talent has been shed, reporting deadlines are incredibly tight or nonexistent and cults of personality are being perpetuated through various channels. And, fair or not, the public’s trust in our watchdog organizations has declined.
We’re optimistic, however. We embrace the stretch that accompanies this new environment. And in the midst of all this change we also firmly believe that, with the explosion of news sources and the onset of information overload, it’s never been more important to contribute to the conversation in a way that makes it smarter and more meaningful.
With this as a backdrop, we picked the brains of three of our own PR professionals at different rungs on the organizational ladder. We asked about the challenges facing the news business – particularly editorial turnover – and how public relations firms can stay ahead of the curve. As we spoke with our colleagues, we noticed common themes that reflect our core values. While each theme is important in and of itself, none can be truly effective on its own.
Be Mindful and Aware
As news junkies, we scan headlines, monitor specific publications and subscribe to alerts and daily roundups so we can position our clients effectively and in a timely fashion. Just as importantly, though, this routine allows us to keep tabs on reporter moves and beat changes. Furthermore, we’ve established strong connections with hundreds of reporters and editors, many of whom want to continue working with us after a change is made.
“It’s all about fostering relationships,” says Senior Associate Agatha Howland. “There’s something to be said for building relationships with reporters across the media spectrum because they move so often now.”
Nurturing these relationships over time helps us provide a better service to those editorial contacts and to our clients. When reporters move to different publications, we connect with their replacements and also get our foot in the door at their new destination. By doing this dozens of times over, our rolodexes are greatly expanded and clients are able to deliver their messages and perspectives across an array of publications. Simply put, we take what could be a problem and turn it into an opportunity.
Also, our goal is not merely to play the role of facilitator. We also help clients cultivate connections with different editors and reporters.
“Our goal is to make clients as comfortable and confident as they can be with reporters,” Howland says. “But that all starts with Greentarget developing the initial relationship – something that takes empathy for reporters and for their needs. Without that introduction, our media efforts suffer.”
Be Adaptable, Empathetic
Clients get worried when they hear about large layoffs at publications or the revolving door of reporters. It’s our job to work through these changes and instill confidence back into our clients.
“They expect us to keep up to date on big changes impacting the media environment, and are always looking for a better understanding of how to get covered in the publications that matter most to their key stakeholders,” says Lisa Seidenberg, Associate Vice President, Media Relations. “When there are shifts at those publications, it’s important that we communicate these changes to clients and reassure them that it won’t change our relationship with the outlets moving forward.”
We need a steady mind and a steady hand, even in the midst of great change, to help our clients stay relevant and confident in their areas of expertise. Over the last year, there has been a noticeable change in the media environment as reporters shift their focus away from increasing digital traffic and pursue the news with renewed purpose.
“Given the current political environment, reporters and editors are more committed to telling the stories that are important to their readers in the most honest way possible,” Seidenberg says. “They are going back to the values that likely spurred them to become journalists in the first place.”
Understand the Landscape (on a Broader Scale)
A strong understanding of the evolving media landscape allows us to advise on the challenges and opportunities involved in gaining earned media coverage; it’s what our clients depend on us to deliver. It’s crucial to making their thought leadership campaigns as effective as possible.
“[Clients] look to us for guidance for what they should turn around and tell their bosses,” says Pam Munoz, Senior Vice President. “Clients depend on us in a big way to understand the landscape and how to navigate around these changes to make sure that they’re visible in the marketplace.”
“We are designed to help clients create smarter conversations, and it’s all to meet business objectives,” Munoz says. “[Our clients] have an obligation to educate reporters, to be quoted, to contribute to these conversations in the public domain.”
Landis is a highly skilled public relations practitioner who draws on years of experience to strengthen the market position of his clients and build their trust and confidence.
When away from the office, he can be found race training on Chicago’s nature trails and spending time outdoors with his wife and son.