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How Should You Change Your Media Relations Approach in the New Journalism Landscape?

In 2020, there are fewer media outlets than ever and seemingly higher standards for stories, so it isn’t a secret that getting media coverage was already becoming more difficult before the pandemic. As you plan year-end communication strategies in this unprecedented year, how do you know what to change about your media relations approach when virtually everything has changed in the media landscape?

The short answer is: You ask journalists. MediaSource, the communications and PR firm I’ve run for more than 20 years, conducted a national survey of journalists to understand the new media environment and what that means to communicators seeking media coverage.

Find out what journalists want today.

I’m presenting our full findings during a PRSA Case in Point on Aug. 25 with UCLA Executive Director of Communications Judy Fortin and New York Times reporter Anahad O’Connor.

We will reveal the following information from the survey:

  • How 2020 has changed newsrooms across America
  • Ways in which the news-gathering process has changed and what changes might be permanent
  • How open journalists are to receiving pitches from communicators about topics unrelated to COVID-19
  • The tangible things that communicators can do to help journalists with the diversity, inclusion and equity initiatives in their newsroom and in their news reporting

Use compassion.

When interacting with journalists in today’s landscape, don’t forget that the people who are reporting the news are also experiencing the same challenges you are facing.

“It’s been a whirlwind for me as it has for a lot of people,” said O’Connor. “Life today is very different than it was a year ago, whether that’s work or just everyday life, family life. Just the city I live in, I’m based in San Francisco, is a very different world. So we’re just adapting.”

Pitch a story and not your spokesperson.

Regardless of the topic you’re pitching, O’Connor says it’s important to pitch a journalist an actual story and not simply a person such as your spokesperson or expert.

“Let’s say you have a PR person who has a client. I think they really need to examine what it is that makes that person’s story unique and really focus on highlighting that to the journalist,” he says. “I get a lot of pitches emailed to me saying, ‘Oh, I have this client who runs a company. Or [I have] a client who is the CEO of a hospital or published this study. Would you like to speak to them because this is in the health area and you write about health?’ And it’s just so general and so broad. You have to lead with what’s different, what’s unique about this.”

The full white paper with the survey findings is now available at this link.


Lisa Arledge Powell is president of MediaSource, an award-winning communications agency that specializes in video production, public relations, social media and strategic insights, constantly securing national exposure for major brands. Connect with her on Twitter: @LisaArledge

Photo credit: foto yakov

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Lisa Arledge Powell

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