The depletion of newsrooms, squeezing of editorial resources, and evolution of the public relations industry into the comprehensive discipline of communications has called upon PR professionals to be more inventive than ever.
In America, there are roughly 4.6 PRs for every one journalist. In the UK since 2013, the number of PRs has risen by 50 per cent, while the number of journalists has fallen by nine per cent.
This vast reduction in journalist numbers, coupled with the proliferation of digital channels, have collectively established multiple lines of communication between journalists and PRs. Consequently, cutting through the noise has never been so difficult.
Although PRs bear the weight of commercial demand, journalists are at the behest of their readers. They decide what they believe their audience wants to hear.
Before pitching a particular journalist, respect for the basics is always a first port of call. What do they write about? Who does their readership comprise of? Will they genuinely be interested in a certain client or sector?
Given the saturation of the market, sporadically pitching over email and hammering the phones just won’t cut it. Though communications as a discipline has become multi-faceted, the traditional rules of media engagement have failed to change with the times.
With editors’ inboxes bulging at the seams, a PR’s job is not just to be another needle in the haystack, but instead to to get on a journalist’s radar by whatever means necessary.
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Doing so could mean physically mailing a pitch in the post with a selection of cupcakes, perhaps sending it as a video message, or, maybe even something as eye-catching as hiring someone to deliver it by bike as if it were a subpoena. Bold statements won’t always guarantee results, but at the very least they will make journalists pay attention.
There is inevitably an element of luck in all of this. PRs may be fortunate enough to catch journalists on a good day with a well-written, tailored pitch.
And, naturally, the ebb and flow of the news cycle is a colossal factor. But to maximise the chance of success, creativity and a varied approach are key.
Journalists are not solely on the hunt for the short-term story. Initiating meaningful relationships with PRs can – if done well – turn a brand, organisation, or individual into an ongoing source of expertise for them.
Failure to look past the impersonal approach to pitching will see the PR industry fall short in its efforts to win over an increasingly compressed media.