Although it’s not news that the newspaper industry has been shrinking, it is startling to see that decline put into context relative to the public relations industry.
Public relations jobs exceed reporting jobs by 6.4-to-1, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That’s more than triple the same ratio 20 years ago, when PR jobs outnumbered reporters by 1.9-to-1.
The trend is expected to continue well into the next decade: employment in PR is expected to rise by 9 percent to 282,600 by 2026 from 2016 while newspaper reporter jobs are expected to decline 9 percent to 45,900 over the same period, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
What does this trend mean for public relations?
Not surprisingly, reporters feel besieged by PR specialists. As newsroom jobs shrink, remaining reporters need to cover larger beats – which mean there are fewer reporters for PR specialists to contact. Bloomberg documents that reporters are indeed feeling overwhelmed by pitches, many of which they do not consider newsworthy or relevant to their beats.
Now, more than ever, PR specialists need to get to know the reporter before writing or calling (social media is great for that, as many journalists use Twitter and other social media to create their own personal brand), and make sure the story pitch is relevant, newsworthy and offers substantive interviews.
Shrinking newsrooms also have made PR specialists less reliant on the mainstream media. The evolution of online communications and social media has made it easier for organizations to communicate with target audiences. Organizations have gotten better at telling their own stories through articles, blogs, videos and other content published on their own websites or through social media. The most successful stories are those that are compelling, credible and authentic – and told without marketing fluff or corporate slogans. There are many ways we help clients create and then amplify the impact of these stories.
Although the PR industry has helped to fill the gap left by the shrinking news industry, the troubles of the news industry are not necessarily a boon for the PR industry. In many ways, despite their tensions, the two industries still depend on each other. Plus, our democracy depends on a free and honest press. Journalism’s pain is no gain for PR. Rather, in moving forward, it helps to feel that pain – and ensure pitches are targeted, thoughtful and newsworthy.