July 15, 2008

Which Came First, The Chicken or the Problem?

Posted in A walk on the "dark side", Media, Social Media at 4:33 pm by R

I say this over and over and over: Public relations and journalism are two players on the same team. We both rely on readers dedication to keep interest (read: DOLLARS!) coming in.

Especially in this sticky-wicket of an economic environment, people aren’t buying papers. And why should they? The corresponding Websites are free to log on to (most of the time). And advertising dollars are drying up, which is what many publication Websites are run on. This is not good.

I post too often about newsroom layoffs, which I believe have a direct correlation to this issue. It’s always one big circle…

To make money, publications need ads. When subscriptions are down, they amp up the ad ratio. When ads take over, readers lose interest. When readers lose interest the subscription numbers media reps sell ads based upon go down. When circulation and demographic data aren’t compelling, advertisers are less inclined to buy. When the ad money stops rolling in, production budgets get cut. When budgets get cut, the newsroom shrinks. When the newsroom shrinks it’s increasingly difficult to do PR! When it’s hard to do PR, I get grumpy.

It’s really a which-came-first-the-chicken-or-the-egg scenario. Do people stop reading because of the ads? Or do ad-heavy publications repel readers? Either way, people stop reading and that loss in readership has an impact on people’s jobs. (Think about that the next time your renewal comes up.)

Regardless, there is an undeniable shift happening. The winds of media change are a-blowin’ in. Major publications like the L.A. Times and the New York Times are doing their best to diversify from paper to Web, podcast, even radio and mobile communications to stay in touch with readers and earn their dollars, eyes and ears.

If media giants struggle to make this change, how will we as Public Relations Practitioners endeavor to help them?

Actually…it’s kind of a no-brainer. We (Armstrong Troyky) have clients asking us about social media, interactive media, viral media and the like all the time. Just as we have to respond to our paying clients with expertise on these new media, we need to respond to the media (our other client) with that same caliber of creativity and understanding of up-and-coming communications avenues.

The open-dialogue and partnership between public relations and the media at-large is critical for both of our industries to survive as we weather these changes and manage these transitions. So regardless of where the conundrum originated, the solution begins with PR.

We must, must, must develop and nurture our relationships with reporters, producers, even publishers and share our wisdom so that they can do the same among their audiences.

I feel as though I’m on a bit of a soapbox here. But I really believe it’s true.

And as for this depressed market (Seriously, Mr. President, you cannot really define this economic situation as “growing,” and you can’t get out of the reporter’s question by telling them they aren’t economist – to distinguish, I am now on my politcal soapbox) soon enough companies will realize cutting that marketing budget was not the wise cut back it seemed to be.

Long story longer, let’s get through this together and find meaningful ways to be…well…meaningful!

~Robyn

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