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?"
Newsroom staffs have continued to dwindle over the last few years while the demand for breaking news and 'round the clock coverage has skyrocketed. This has put tremendous stress on the remaining reporters and their editors, who have to weed through hundreds and possibly thousands of pitches and news announcements on a daily basis. They have to determine what is critical to cover immediately, what stories are interested but can wait, and those they just don't have the time or interest in. Reporters now typically have to submit a few and sometimes dozens of stories daily. They aren't able to truly deep-dive into many stories or passion projects.
To help relieve this pressure from their staffs, editors started opening up contributor networks, giving outside, non-staff experts the opportunity to share their perspective on timely topics, while helping add more content to their sites.
This was well-received for quite some time, what seemed to be a win-win for media and brands alike. Media got the supply of content needed to fill the demand requested by readers, while thought leaders, executives and brands were able to share their specific perspectives on the news of the day.
But recently there has been some backlash. Media outlets like TechCrunch have rescinded their contributed network offers, citing the amount of articles they receive that they "strongly suspected where ghost-written by PR or really had no business being given the platform."
While I'm not a fan of blaming the entire quality issue on PR, I understand the delicate balance outlets are trying to achieve. As a result, these outlets and probably many more will overcorrect and severely limit or completely eliminate their contributed content programs. In turn, businesses and their leaders will need to find different and some possibly new avenues to consider as part of their PR and thought leadership programs.
No need for much concern though. There are more platforms than ever before for people to publish and share their viewpoints beyond traditional media outlets and blogs -- LinkedIn, Medium, to name a few.
Some may few these platforms as the "easy way" to get content published and out into the public sphere, believing that this isn't "real coverage". True. Media coverage in traditional outlets will now mostly pertain to news.
But if you are wanting to focus on thought leadership, publishing on these alternative platforms and having a well executed socialization plan in place can make your readership and impact as strong as a what you may have hoped to achieved with a previous guest post on a traditional blog.
Now that we are more than 3 full months into the new year, we have a bit of an idea of where things might be heading (or do we?) for the remainder of the year. So we've ask some of our ROAM Communications network partners and fellow PR professionals:
"What Are Going To Be The Biggest Trends Or News Cycles In 2017?"
Here's what they had to say:
"Heavy issues related to climate change, war, immigration, human rights and security are going to dominate headlines. Beyond the obvious politics, I think people are going to want to read about and write about human interest stories. And there will be some escapism into the arts, film, literature, history. If those of us in tech are lucky and diligent, there will be news cycles around technological and scientific breakthroughs in areas like health, transportation, agriculture and sustainable global development. If I get my wish, then 2017 will be the year that "blue tech" comes to the fore: the smarter collection of, distribution of and even power-generation from water. I think of water as the new oil."
"The biggest trend in 2017 is uncertainty mixed with distrust. The channels we use to communicate are considered suspect and people now see "alternative facts' in every communication. No trust? No conversation."
"Biggest PR trend will be the rise of Independents becoming a power workforce within PR and marketing-at-large. PR, and news in general, is quickly snowballing to a type of crisis -- authenticity of communication and media are being called into question. As much as big tech giants preach about diversity, our media platforms will continue to be confirmation bias cocoons. There will be a lot of very bad attempts at reaching across the aisle when what we really need to do is go back to basics -- in person and common discourse."
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.