Bankruptcy: The impact on local journalism and PR professionals

McClatchy Bankruptcy: The Impact on Local Journalism and PR Professionals

The McClatchy Company, an American publishing company that operates 29 daily newspapers in 14 states, filed for bankruptcy on February 13. Reports have stated that business will continue as usual after the hedge fund Chatham Asset Management partnered with the company on its bankruptcy plan.

Business as usual for McClatchy does not necessarily mean business as usual for PR pros when it comes to generating media coverage for their clients. Local media has proven to be a successful tool for helping generate awareness and brand affinity; any shake-ups in the newsroom can be disruptive to obtaining results.

According to a 2018 MuckRack article, there are now more than six PR pros for every one journalist in the United States. With shrinking newsrooms and a growing number of professionals practicing public relations, even the slightest offset in balance could cause serious disruption in our industry. In the coming weeks and months, the impact of the filing will unfold — but how do we navigate uncertainty and uncharted waters in the interim?

Media Relations:

Media relations is not just a segment within the practice of public relations. Going well beyond treating members of the media as arbitrary email addresses, it involves developing meaningful relationships with the people behind the screen. During this time of uncertainty, taking extra steps to further develop that relationship and show compassion in a stressful time could be mutually beneficial.

Take this opportunity to connect with any peers working for McClatchy. Reach out to them to see how they are feeling. Grow that relationship. Find out the pulse and vibe of the newsroom. These things will have — at a minimum — an indirect impact on the coverage you generate for your clients.

Earning the trust of your media contacts on a personal level can help when, for example, you’re up against a tight deadline, pitching a story that you know might just be a stretch, and being prioritized in a an inbox flooded with messages from others just like you trying to snag that coveted column space.

Keeping that relationship intact could pay off for article placement today and in the future, as you will remain on the reporter’s Rolodex even if they were to leave that publication.

Quality Content: “What’s in it for me and my audience?”

It’s 2020. By now, we all understand that content is king. But creating quality content is more important now than ever. Now is not the time to misstep or make mistakes. Now is the time when we as content generators need to be sure that we maintain the quality of the pitches and press releases we are sending to the newsroom, as they can easily be scrapped for other coverage.

A waning number of journalists in the newsroom does not necessarily translate to less space to fill. And even if it does, providing quality content will only make your pitch, your story or any other content submission stand out above the others. Always work to answer the journalist’s age-old question: “What is in it for me, and why would my readers care?”

Make their jobs easier

No one likes to make life harder than it has to be. Nearly every single person you encounter in your professional life would welcome the opportunity to make his or her job easier without sacrificing quality. The same goes for your journalist friends. Their deadlines are also tight, and finding industry leaders capable of answering their questions and providing quality insights can be challenging.

At The Brandon Agency, we have developed a three-step process to putting together our press releases. We are no longer settling for just a standard release that walks a balanced line between interesting writing and providing the facts clearly. We have taken the release a step further. Just as journalism has evolved over the years, so has the press release. Consider complementing your standard release by adding a synopsis with both an introductory paragraph and a bullet list of highlights. This helps keep your message intact if the editor doesn’t have the space or time to include a full release, and takes work off their plate by making your news release easier to cover and include in their news cycle.

Additionally, provide your media contacts with a list of the clients you represent, the industries your clients work in, and/or subject matters in which they excel as sources. Having an ally on the agency side who can quickly connect them to a source is a resource journalists will hardly forget to utilize when the time comes. Plus, it opens your clients to being included in stories in which they otherwise might not be mentioned, and you position your clients as industry experts.

But what if the other shoe drops?

While history does not always repeat itself, hedge funds have not made a habit of investing in reporters. A slash in reporters or the demise of a publication in its entirety is not something that is out of the question for many of these newspapers. For regional clients, the local paper may be both the first and last stop for article placement. But how do we help our clients generate the exposure they need while allowing ourselves as PR pros to shape and maintain a positive image of a company, organization or individual?

Maintaining media relationships, providing quality content and making journalists’ lives easier will all pay off no matter what happens to McClatchy — and will certainly translate over various mediums. But don’t let yourself be limited to earned media coverage as your only source for maintaining or creating a favorable public image or for disseminating information. As public relations professionals, we are storytellers. So how do we tell our clients’ stories without the local paper?

When no one else is there to tell your story, tell it on your own. Owned content can be leveraged in a variety of ways throughout the entire marketing and sales funnel. Owning an online presence and being a thought leader in a category provides many opportunities for clients. First, that content can be repurposed for social media use and email marketing, or even taken directly to a trade or industry publication and published as a bylined article for your client.

When it comes to social media and public relations, some classify them as two separate entities. But in fact, social media has grown to be one of the most effective tools we use in our practice. While social media will never replace traditional media, there is merit to leveraging direct communication with your target audience through this medium. Social media, a facet of Digital PR, is not a single vertical within marketing but an opportunity to speak directly with your target audience.

The Princeton Review notes that Digital PR is about “developing strong relationships with all the players in your social graph. The techniques include SEO, content development, social media, online newsrooms, websites, blogs and online media coverage. Online Reputation Social Media and consumer-generated content can have a rapid effect on your reputation — both positive and negative.”

Public speaking and speech writing provide additional opportunities to deliver your message and story directly to your audience. Dive deep into the community and focus on those events where your customers and potential customers are. That may be in the form of a speaking engagement at a young professionals’ evening or at a rotary club meeting — either way, having an engaged audience listening to your clients’ message is undeniably a PR win.

The possibilities for PR successes are endless. From podcasts and Instagram takeovers to wire releases and bylined articles, the art of storytelling will continue to be a driving force in obtaining results that help our clients’ businesses grow. Interested in learning more about how The Brandon Agency’s PR pros can help you and your business? Contact us today to get started.