The Thinning of Media
Managing our media relationships is even more important today as media conglomerates continue to downsize newsrooms and shift to digital platforms.
Editorial downsizing and media convergence is nothing new in Canada. There is not a year that goes by without a headline announcing serious newsroom cutbacks in broadcast, print and radio. In 1970 Senator Keith Davey began the national dialogue in Canada warning of media convergence. Although concentrating on print journalism, the Kent Report findings represented recommendations intended for all media holdings.
“What matters,” explained the Committee’s report, “is the fact that control of the media is passing into fewer and fewer hands, and that experts agree that this trend is likely to continue and perhaps accelerate.”
And accelerate it did! Flash forward to 2017 and beyond, over the last year alone upwards of 1,200 productions, editorial and administration staff have been eliminated by convergence and editorial downsizing in this country.
International media has not escaped the swath of fiscal efficiency as one of the world’s most respected and digitally presentable news institutions, The Guardian Media Group, are speaking of “…steep editorial cuts.”
There is no doubt that these are extremely difficult times for media. Not necessarily for the business entities, but for the journalist that lies at the centre of keeping their jobs and maintaining integrity where the players are few; and the direction of editorial still unknown.
“We’re going down the path where journalism and the convergence of news that’s important for a functioning democracy is at an existential risk in this country,” expounds Howard Law, Director of Media for Unifor, the union representing over 13,000 in media.
A Business in Transition
Postmedia, one of Canada’s largest media arms just last year announced the combining of newsroom editors and journalists in targeted regions across the country. Cities that had enjoyed localized coverage would now share newsgathering resources even though their editorial desks lie hundreds of miles apart.
Nick Taylor-Vaisey, president of the Canadian Association of Journalists, lamented, ‘thousands of stories of interest to each of these communities that would be lost because there are not enough resources to cover them.’ Essentially providing a ‘weekend coverage’ to the news moving forward.
If newsroom convergence wasn’t enough, now we have the perpetual shifting of digital media. Looking back a few years, media executives were locked on the idea that digital platforms were the Rosetta Stone bringing much-needed dollars back into ad revenues. This has not been the case as most analysts agree, ‘media today is forced to embark on the creation and provision of transferable content.’ Traditional methods of newsgathering are declining feeding the rise of content marketing.
Journalists as Marketers
Do our journalist friends need to find a new calling in developing content? Is media itself another channel to share content? Will this migration of media talent further erode journalistic integrity? Many questions and few answers.
If we look at purely skills as opposed to ethics, marketers are essentially publishers. And if we look at media institutions as news marketers, these marketers will rely on the experts that intrinsically seek the good stories when developing their content.
This speaks to the essence of Andrea Miller’s analysis, “Career Change. From Journalist to Content Marketer.” She identifies 6 key transferable skills journalists will need as marketers when developing content: “They realize Lines are Blurred, They Cut Through the Jargon, They are Technology-savvy, The Know How to Conduct an Interview, They Meet Deadlines, and They Can Tell a Story.”
In my experience, managing media relations has rarely deviated from the tenets of outstanding customer service. Traditional media, as part of a larger digital and social tactical array, will always be central to our overall strategic planning.
Earned media will never waver from being the hallmark of your media success.
A New Relationship Management System
As professionals, we need to do our best to meet the expectations of an industry in constant flux. We must tweak our approach and redefine our expectations. Below lie 6 basic rules. Some old some new but all critical towards providing excellent relationship management to our partners.
- Be Relevant
Cross-platform repurposing is a common tactic when practising an integrated communications strategy. Take the time to provide them with a unique and informative story. Research what is topical and look to build your pitch around what is relevant – today. Provide your media with elements and leads when building the stories that resonate above the usual diet of ribbon cuttings and product launches. Keep the message tight for the reporter. Always think to repurpose, repurpose, repurpose.
- Amplify Their Work
Layout for them how you will be positioning their story in your media strategy. Inform them of the media channels that will be utilized in order to amplify their contribution to the overall story. How their article or interview is ‘getting out’ and how critical it is towards providing the ‘right content’ for the right audience. Practice your 360-degree approach to integrated communications and marketing and share this with your media partners.
- Recognizing and Foster Content Publishing
Explore with your partner how his/her job has shifted regarding recent media landscape changes. Are they needing more video than previously? What platforms are they tasked with providing content for? Without a news at noon and the ‘6’ deadlines, ask about their new publishing deadlines. Remember, content publishing means both video and written. Use your expertise to help them understand how you can help them continue to provide top quality content.
- Understand Brand Journalism Needs
Brand journalism is becoming more and more popular for many journalists leaving print and broadcast organizations. Recognizing this new job description will help us understand what constitutes a brand journalist and what they are looking for from you. After all, you are also educating yourself.
- Always be Available and Reliable
This rule should never change. Utilize new technologies to help keep in contact with your media partner. Twitter direct messaging is a good example. When in doubt, ask.
Often deadlines are fluctuant across multiple platforms. This means you need to be reliable with media tools so they can plan accordingly. Having everything ready and neatly assembled primed to be tucked under their arms, or shoved into their pockets. This form of reliability along with being available at all times keeps your partner congruent when meeting their deadlines.
Reliability also means making sure our expert spokespersons are media trained, well rehearsed and positioned for illuminating interviews. Look at all opportunities being dynamic when positioning your experts. ENG can come from not only a news camera but also a regular DSLR or iPhone. Always ask, but be ready just in case.
No matter if you work in A, B or C markets, we as professionals need to shift with the times as much as our media partners. By showing the empathy and respect they deserve, will speak volumes now and down the road when establishing and fostering excellent media relationships.
Our media partners did not ask to be where they are today. Let’s just make it a little easier for them to do their jobs.