November 10, 2008

Telling your story in the age of shrinking newsrooms

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:58 am by SD

In the past month, the LA Times announced plans to let 10% of its newsroom staff go and the Star Ledger announced plans to layoff 40% of its staff through a series of buyouts. Additional cuts are probably not far off on the horizon as companies tighten their belts and cut down on advertising budgets in 2009 due to the current economic crisis. As revenues decline, newspapers are forced to answer to the bottom line and newsrooms are shrinking.

Fewer reporters are still expected to cover the same amount of news as before with fewer resources. In most markets, the days of the beat reporter are fading into the sunset and one reporter may cover a company declaring bankruptcy, an aviation company’s quarterly earnings and the latest trend in commercial real estate all in one day. What does this mean to us PR folk? We are facing both our greatest challenge and our greatest opportunity.

Beat reporters are a dying breed. With reporters stretched so thin, many are covering several stories across multiple industries each day. Despite their best efforts, they often don’t have the time nor resources to dive deep into an industry. This is where we can be a resource. It’s our job to offer that background information by offering an expert to do an informational briefing or sending over the latest white paper your client wrote. More than ever before, it’s our job to provide the information, without being asked, because reporters simply don’t have the time to chase it down.

In Denver, “fluff” news coverage is gone. Reporters no longer have the time to write a story about a company’s 25th anniversary or an award received by a CEO. While these are still good stories to tell, there is other more pressing news that is keeping their plates full. Do your research and find a way to still tell these stories but find the broader implication. Perhaps your client’s award speaks to a national trend or an anniversary is a result of strategic business decisions that other struggling companies can learn from. Go the extra mile to make your story have a hard news angle, otherwise it simply won’t get covered due to time and space constraints.

Since there is no end in sight for shrinking newsrooms, we have a responsibility to be a resource to reporters. Don’t waste their time with a bad pitch, provide them all the information they need and understand the challenges they are facing. Your efforts will go a long way and ensure that the stories you need to tell get told.

~S

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