Media layoffs present opportunities for communicators

It’s no secret that traditional media organizations in Canada, and around the world for that matter, are struggling to generate revenue while at the same time keeping up with the rapidly evolving media landscape. This has led to layoffs at media giants like Postmedia Network and Globe and Mail, among others. More recently, the Winnipeg Free Press let seven (or 8 percent) of its newsroom staff go, too.

Someone has even launched a Twitter account (though it hasn’t been active since May as I write this) specifically dedicated to sharing news on media layoffs (news, on media layoffs – can you say ironic?)

This, of course, is a very bad thing. Seeing our journalist friends sent packing after years of hard work and dedication, or buried under their work and stressed to the max because they’ve had to take on the workload of their former colleagues is disheartening, to say the least.

That said, this situation does present us PR folk with some opportunities…

Package it right, and increase your chances of getting coverage:

Journalists are now overworked even more than they already were before their colleagues started dropping like flies. They have to produce more stories in a single day, and are likely struggling, at least slightly, to keep up.

So how does this benefit us as PR pros? Well, as always, your story needs to be, umm, a story. That will never change. However, if you can pitch a story to a journalist that is not only newsworthy, but also packaged well, there’s a really good chance that they will run it. Of course, packaging a story well has always been extremely important, and something we in PR are good at (or at least should be good at), but many well packaged stories that may have previously been overlooked may now be getting attention. “What’s this? A story, and it’s even nicely giftwrapped with a little bow on top? I’ll run it!”

This is all, of course, purely anecdotal, but in my experience and from what I’ve been hearing from friends in the biz, sure does seem to be the case.

Teach them something new – earn their respect:

Journalists, until recent years, have typically focused on a particular subject, and only that subject (not including covering for colleagues on vacation, mat leave, etc., of course). The investment writer only covered investing, the real estate writer only real estate, and so on. You had better know what you’re talking about when pitching a writer who covers only one topic because they will ask you tough questions in deciding whether your story is actually any good, and your lame brain answers will kill your chances of getting the story, you can count on that.

Nowadays, however, with journalists having to cover several different topics every day, chances are they aren’t exactly experts on the subject matter you’re pitching them on. This is your chance to teach them something new (since you are an expert, right?), and earn their respect in the process.

Earning the respect of journalists is key to any PR pro’s success, and not overly easy to do. Teaching them something is a great way to get their respect on the quick, on top of that great story.

My point:

More than ever, you have the opportunity to make a journalist’s job easier by properly packaging  your stories, and teach them something new whenever you have the chance. Once you’re on their good side they will be 100 times (again, anecdotal – it’s my piece and I’ll make up numbers if I want to!) more receptive to your pitches.

What changes have you noticed in dealing with journalists in the last couple of years? Have you experienced anything similar to what I’m saying here, or do you think I’m out to lunch? Let me know in the comments!