A big theme in last weeks PR week was how the expenses row subjugating the media agenda is affecting the way media relations is conducted (see here and here) – it seems many agencies have found the need to hold back their stories for quieter times and in general have had to work much harder getting coverage.
Although this makes sense strategically, it doesn’t look good for the industry. Since the credit crunch and subsequent recession there has been a perpetual battery of fincancial, and now political, stories that the national papers have devoted much of their column inches to, and my guess is that it won’t relent any time soon.
Although the news agenda is tighter in 2008-9 than it was in 2006 or 2007, PR bosses cannot use this as an excuse. Clients still need to get their story out, whatever the climate, and if PR cannot achieve that then they will spend their money elsewhere. A big ad spend will get the message out consistently and regularly; it might not be as credible, but at least it can be guaranteed
PR cannot be a discipline that relies on a slow news day to tell stories. Journalists, under pressure to put out increasing volumes of news in recent years, are often forced to rely on lazy PR stories to fill their quota. However, the recent batch of big news is making it more of a chellenge to get heard.
Agencies should be advising clients on ways in which to stand out and be relevant in the current media climate (apart from communications) and working harder than ever to provide an angle to their stories.
Perhaps more importantly, agencies need to be less reliant on traditional media relations and have a larger number of potential tactics in their armoury. Those well versed in social media have an immediate advantage as they can bypass the media to reach consumers and stakeholders directly. This is a testing time for the industry, but it also maybe the shake-up it needs to bring out some real creativity.