By Leola Abraham -
3 November 2015
Journalists are not the only ones scrambling to keep up with rapid changes in the media landscape, recent shake ups in newsrooms have left those in the public relations industry wondering “where to from here?”
The issues were discussed at a recent conference called "The
Inside Story," which tackled a number of challenges for
communications professionals in the modern media world.
Leola Abraham, Account Director at Wright Communications,
recently chaired this conference and shares her key outtakes here
for the benefit of other PR practitioners.
The changing media landscape
The past few years have been tumultuous for the media industry.
Changes in technology have met with industry consolidation and
economic malaise to create a perfect storm of cost-cutting and
Many titles have gone by the wayside, while respected reporters
have had to adapt to the times and deal with increasing
uncertainty. The changes show no sign of abating.
Although journalists are impacted by the changes and new ways of
working, those in the PR industry face plenty of challenges of
One of them is figuring out who and where to pitch their content
We have always picked up the phone and pitched in a story to a
specific reporter, chief of staff or similar. What has changed is
the syndication model.
So rather than picking up the phone to the news editor of all
daily papers, now if you get news of national significance in
Fairfax or NZME it gets syndicated to other titles and even to
other formats (e.g. radio). So the importance of that one
pitch is now ten times more crucial to nail.
These days content can be pitched to print and online news,
radio, TV, bloggers, vloggers and remarketed on our client's own
social media platforms. Kiwis spend 47% of their total time
online on social media.
This gives a range of options for telling your clients' story,
but it can be a headache working out which option is best. And you
never know if the outlet you pitch to today will be in business
Think like a journalist
Putting yourself in the journalist's shoes has always been
important for those in the communications industry, but now it is
more important than ever.
Shrinking newsrooms and expanding responsibilities mean
journalists have to produce more with less of almost everything,
most importantly time.
It is common knowledge that many in communications are former
journalists, but even those who transitioned recently may need to
get up to speed with what life is like in newsrooms today.
News meetings that used to take place at 10am have now been
shifted forward to as early as 8am, so it is crucial to consider
the timing of your pitch.
Also, gone are the days when journalists would file a story then
quickly move on to the next one.
Today they are expected to constantly update the story
throughout the day, because nothing looks worse on a news website
than a story that is 8 hours old sitting on the homepage.
It is essential to get journalists easily-understood information
quickly, so they get the facts right for the first take.
Once they have done the initial story you can follow up with any
other inquiries and arrange interviews, photo ops etc.
Content is king (and distribution is key)
While the media landscape is in flux and consumers are choosing
different ways to access news, one thing is constant: there will
always be demand for quality, authentic content that engages with
The requirement for communications professionals to be great
storytellers is more important than ever, and the story has to be
tailored to the medium.
For example, New Zealanders check their phones about 100 times a
day on average. The way the story is written for mobile news apps
should be vastly different to what you prepare for a TV current
It is equally important that you choose the correct distribution
method for your content, because that can be the difference between
achieving significant media coverage and getting ignored.
Another issue looked at during the conference was the rise of
native advertising, which allows businesses to pay for sponsored
content that looks like a news story. It remains to be seen how
widespread this will become and how audiences will react.
Know your audience
Putting yourself in the shoes of journalists should be part of
your process, but don't forget to do the same for your target
Understanding your audience is more important than ever, due to
the growing fragmentation of how people access news and
An interesting point made during the conference was that the
nature of communities is changing and an audience is not just based
on a physical location or social group.
Mainstream, traditional media may still be the best option for
certain stories but for others you could do better to choose a
niche outlet where your target audience is known to reside.
The first step is making sure you are clear about who you want
the story to speak to.
It could be insurance advisers in the Auckland region,
first-time mothers or builders in the Waikato, but whoever it is,
you must learn about what they care about and what interests
This advice also relates to sponsorship, which was another topic
explored at the conference.
In years gone by, businesses have often taken a fairly haphazard
approach to selecting which causes to support in their communities
but this is unlikely to match organisational goals or get good
results for organisations and staff. Companies are increasingly
taking a more strategic approach to sponsorship and charity,
working with organisations that align with their core values and
help build their brand equity. This is one area where PR
practitioners can potentially add a lot of value in future.
Conclusion: make change your friend
The trends discussed at The Inside Story conference might seem
challenging, but with every change comes both challenges and
The public relations industry has fared better than the media
industry in recent years, but there is likely to be a widening gap
between the operators who adapt to these trends and those who stick
to the old way of thinking.
As technology continues to rapidly change our world both off and
online keeping these useful tips in mind may make all the
difference to your success.