We are now a couple of weeks into 2018. Like nearly every year before, so much changed in 2017 and yet, not really. The media landscape continued to evolve: newsrooms sadly continued to shrink, the written word made way for more and more video and the bar continues to rise on what reporters are willing to cover.
In 2017, this was all further emphasized by the tumultuous US political climate, which caused the blinding national and international spotlights to be cast upon media organizations, how they are reporting on stories and whether or not they are "fake news." The increased pressure placed on journalists trickled down to more pressure on PR professionals and the businesses they represent to communicate more clearly and in a more immediate fashion. PR became even more important and influential within individual businesses as a result.
We asked several PR professionals what changed in 2017 so we can look to improve upon how we can all approach PR and the media in 2018. Here's what they had to say:
"I think truth is more important than ever."
"I think the most pressing issue now is the whole “fake news” problem. Ignoring the huge political and social problems created when we undermine any possible independent agency that might question those in power, this is an enormous challenge for PR/communications. Where do you take your stories? How do you deal with it if someone cries “fake news” — which these days, is instantly believed?"
Today's political climate is, let's just say... tense.
With many of the executive orders and statements being made by the White House over the last few weeks, businesses, particularly those in the tech industry, are being pushed into the spotlight, whether they like it or not. This can be quite frustrating for communications teams, who needs to create statements and policies for their executives and teams with little to no turnaround time.
Several companies like Airbnb, Lyft and Starbucks have seized the opportunity to make bold political statements and the majority of consumers have responded positively. But very very few have come out on top. Others have tried to make statements and fallen flat, while others have attempted to stay silent or issue vague, impersonal quotes that leave consumers looking for more, or worse -- lashing out at and even boycotting the companies.
This is a tricky time for communications professionals. A time to evaluate your company or client's values and culture. How do you want to be perceived when customers, investors and employees look back at this moment in time a year from now? 5 years from now? A decade from now?
How audiences react can certainly be finicky and you'll never know their true reaction until you put your message and actions out there. But it is important for you and your leadership team to not only be comfortable, but proud of how you managed your value messages during this very tenuous time.
Having just survived the Hallmark holiday of Valentine's Day, whether we have significant others or prefer our single status, relationships have been a hot topic. As such, it is the perfect time to talk about a different kind of relationship: that between PR pros and journalists.
This type of relationship is one that you might see on a soap opera or primetime drama. Some times it is complete perfection, other times it is in complete disarray and then there are the times in between. And like all relationships, they vary based on the people and scenarios involved.
Some PR pros absolutely love working closely with journalists while others would rather do any other part of the job than deal with media relations. Similarly, there are journalists who make it their mission in life to talk about their hatred for "PR flacks" while others appreciate what good PR pros can offer.
When it comes down to it, we all need to come to an agreement -- we need each other.
PR pros need journalists to distribute news about their company and clients. Journalists need PR pros and the executives they support to provide context and perspective on the stories they are trying to tell. There will be scenarios where the story doesn't go in the direction the company wanted it to and then there will be times where the journalist may feel like they are writing too much of a puff piece. But we all need to focus on the facts, the interesting stories and the people that matter most -- the readers/viewers.
The news ecosystem requires all participants -- businesses, journalists and PR pros -- to work together in order to provide fair and balanced information and storytelling for readers and viewers. It is then up to them to make their own opinions on the situation.
Every new year comes with new opportunities and new challenges.
We asked some of our colleagues in the PR industry: "What are the biggest obstacles PR professionals face in the coming year?" Here are some of their responses.
"With so much swirl in D.C., it may take a couple of months for other industries like technlogy or travel to get back to the share-of-voice that they're accustomed to, or they'll have to fight harder and get creative to maintain or grow it. It may be a good time to experiment with different, more targeted approaches like exclusive or feature placements that don't rely on the echo-chamber effect that could be dampened in the coming year for all but the most prominent players."
"For one, probably the same that it's been for a while: demonstrating the real value of PR.
"Contributed content written by your clients to position them as experts in their industry, is a hot trend and will continue to be a very important part of your PR strategy in 2017. With that being said, media outlets are constantly getting bombarded with guest thought leadership pieces from publicists, which means that you need to make sure you're submitting high quality, stellar content on fresh topics. Also, the Editorial Directors for these media outlets that take contributed content, are constantly changing so it's going to be a little difficult keeping up with who you should be pitching."
But not everything in 2017 is negative for PR pros...
"I've been in this industry for over 25 years and I believe PR professionals are in a sweet spot right now. Most businesses realize they need PR/Marketing support and are taking PR more seriously. It's not the first thing to be eliminated when budgets get tight anymore."
Welcome to ROAMings, a compilation of thoughts and musings about the PR and media industries. This is an opportunity to discuss the “here and now” of the industry, interesting events or case studies, pivotal moments that affect how we approach PR, etc. It isn’t about brand loyalties or preferences -- and we will not be publishing self-promotional materials or talk about our clients in this setting -- but how those brands, individuals and events are leveraging (or in some cases abandoning) PR.