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Media Relations Reboot

Rebuilding news organizations and broadcast companies that win in the digital communications age

The media relations playbook has been the same for a long time. A big issue comes up, and the PR team convinces the local media to cover it. The print folks run a story and maybe a photo in the paper, and you’ve held the event early enough to rate video on the evening news.

Today, that playbook has been rewritten. The jobs of a print reporter and a broadcast reporter are meeting more and more in the middle.

“The digital age has made TV and newspapers more alike,” said Jere Gish, an anchor at WGAL News 8 in the Harrisburg region of Pennsylvania. “Now they both have immediate deadlines.”

Gish was speaking recently at the “Town Hall on the Media” at Harrisburg Area Community College. The featured discussion focused on the news business, and it was clear from the conversation how alike the two mediums have become.

The point Gish made is shared by other journalists. There are no longer the deadlines of the 5 o’clock, 6 o’clock or 11 o’clock news for broadcast reporters. Their job, just like print reporters, is to get news on their websites as quickly as possible.

A news director told me his station has a laser focus on its website because more people go there to catch the nightly news than watch it on TV. Social media audiences demand information now — on all their social channels. Often, it’s old news by 5 p.m.

Meanwhile, referring to reporters as print journalists is a misnomer anymore. Along with a reporter’s notebook, they show up to cover events with their smartphones in hand and primed to take photos or audio. They are doing video interviews, using Facebook Live, tweeting and putting together photo slideshows for their websites and other digital properties.

The takeaway for media professionals in a digital world

Because broadcast and print are digitally focused, there are more eyeballs on both than just a few years ago. It is important to think about that when making decisions about potential coverage.

Take The Patriot-News/PennLive, the newspaper and website in Pa.’s capital. At its print-circulation pinnacle, the Sunday paper had 200,000 subscribers. Yet the website saw 5.7 million unique visitors in March 2017 alone, says Mike Feeley, director of content.

TV stations are capturing more online ad revenue from their websites as a result of the changes in how people consume news. The audience extends outside of the regional market, too. It is global. Web analytics show that more people are reading TV articles on the website than watching the story on the website.  

News media professionals, and the media relations firms they work with, must think differently and more tactically when it comes to their content operations.

This can be good news for media relations specialists who are pitching stories because it means the potential for added exposure across multiple channels. It also means you have to be prepared for every media outlet at the same time.

Jeanette Krebs is a Managing Editor at Bravo Group and former Opinion Page Editor at The Patriot-News. Jeanette works with clients to develop relevant messages, garner positive editorial coverage and diffuse challenging issues through effective crisis communications.