The Changing World of Public Relations

PR-Digital Newsroom

The newsroom changes constantly and with the digital age, some say print will disappear altogether. So big changes for the PR industry and how they relate to news loom on the horizon as well. In 2000, newspaper advertising revenue reached an all-time high of $49 billion, according to a report by The Newspaper Association of America.

That same revenue plummeted to $22 billion in 2009, according to the same reporting association. And many major newspapers, such as the Rocky Mountain News, have died. Further, in 1990, The American Society of News Editors saw the numbers of newspaper reporters and editors reach a high of 56,000. That number dropped to 41,600 by 2011.

What does this mean for the dissemination of unbiased information to the general public? Does it mean we are dependent on the web, blogs, social media, and TV for our information and who gives us that information?

Where does PR fit into all of this?

The number of PR professionals rose dramatically while the journalism professionals’ numbers decreased. In 1980, in a population of 100,000, there were .45 PR people as contrasted to .36 journalists. By 2008, that ratio changed to .90 PR workers to .25 journalists.

If the shift means more PR people in the field of information dissemination, how does it translate for new skill sets in PR? The days of just doing press releases ended with PR stepping squarely into social media, but how much further will the extension go?

Even over the last few years, services PR agencies offer increased greatly. In addition to basic media relations, building apps, web design, new skills in digital, and data analysis and others, made their way into the picture. It’s no longer a clear line of what a PR agency doesn’t do, but more about how it helps client to the top, using all their tools.

Even in Japan, the world’s number four country in Internet population, over 80 percent of Internet participants contribute to and view blogs. Home to two major newspapers and ranked as the top advertising market in Asia for 2012, Japan too sees the downturn in newspaper advertising budgets.

This all calls PR to new heights, a time to move digital answers to promote sales and branding more effectively.

In the changing world of PR, it may also be the client needing education, convincing them to take new risks with new technology. Video Storytelling is an example.

“When you think of PR in the old school sense, you tend to think of media relations, bloggers, and influencers,” observes Jim Joseph, President of Cohn & Wolfe – North America. “But you don’t necessarily think about PR agencies actually doing the creative work, coming up with concepts and executing them. Video work often went to ad agencies, as did paid integrations and sometimes working with celebrities.” All of that is changing now.

All these changes in the PR scene shifts journalists to the digital scene and away from print. What is PR’s relationship to them now? Numerous top-notch journalists left publications such as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and others to fill a growing digital world of coverage. Topics include traditional national and international coverage, education, and investigative journalism.

The American Society of News Editors reported 16,200 full-time newsroom jobs lost from 2003 to 2012. AdAge reported a loss of 38,000 magazine jobs in that time. The losses continued into 2013 and 2014. This shift presents strong implications for the public, as well as how PR professionals will deal with changes.

“This represents something completely new in the journalism ecosystem,” says First Look Media executive editor Eric Bates. Bates started there in November after a decade at Rolling Stone magazine. “It’s a shifting not only of editorial resources but a shifting of editorial expertise.”

In a changing world such as this, surely PR professionals will need and use all their skills while gaining new expertise as they continue.

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