Thursday, September 9, 2010

Just Think - New Adventures in Public Relations

You've probably heard about the downdraft that's hit the journalism business.  For starters, reporters have a terrible reputation.  I think it's safe to say that a lot of Americans don't trust the press.  Many people think reporters are arrogant and hellbent on promoting a liberal agenda.  So it's tough being a reporter. (full disclosure here: I worked in TV news for over 20 years as a producer, writer, assignment editor, anchor and yes, as a reporter)

But the "dislike" factor isn't why reporters find their jobs getting tougher every day.  Their industry is in trouble.  In the newspaper business they're firing people left and right.  Those who still have jobs have to pick up the slack- and there's a lot of slack.  In my local newspaper today there are 30 articles (not counting the obits).  Only 15 were written by local reporters.  Four of those stories were short police blotter reports.  And three others were provided by guest columnists.  So by my count, my local paper contained just eight local articles today.

At my last TV station they fired the entire art department and outsourced the work.  They fired everyone in master control and outsourced the work.  They fired most of the video editors- added desktop editing- and now the writers are writing AND editing the video.  My old station also has a new video sharing arrangement with another station- they only send one camera to an event and share the video.

So here's the bottom line: TV stations and newspapers are consolidating- they're preserving their resources and covering fewer stories.  What gets lost is enterprise reporting.  The TV folks are taking more video off the network feeds.  The newspaper guys are taking more stories off the big wire services.

What can PR people do about it?  That's the 64 dollar question.  I just saw an article in which a PR pro bemoans the lack of coverage on a fantastic story idea.  Maybe it was a great story- but the media is operating with limited resources.  Here's a thought: do the leg work.  

Think like a reporter: tell reporters how they can localize your story- tell them where to go and who they should talk to.
Think about having your clients shoot video and/or photos- and providing it to media outlets so they don't have to shoot it themselves.
Think about pitching stories at the network level- if the network does the story it will be fed down the line to all the affiliates!  
In short, Think how you can make covering your story easy for reporters. There must be lots of things you can Think of.  With limited resources many news operations will probably Think the best idea is to follow the path of least resistance.

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