Over the last couple of years, a number of traditional news publishers that have announced layoffs, buyouts and staff cuts, including The New York Times. As veterans like Stuart Elliot and Bill Carter leave the field, we are losing reporters with many decades of hard-won professional experience and insight into their chosen areas of expertise.
This will have a huge impact on our work as communicators. Reporters with less experience may not be able to quickly deliver the high quality of reporting and news gathering compared to those veterans. More time will have to be spent by us, as well as our clients, to educate them and provide context for milestones and changes in the industry. Already busy C-suite executives may not want to engage with reporters who need more time and education to get up to speed.
This change in the news environment opens a vacuum in terms of original analysis and expert opinion in newspapers and magazines. Going forward, news outlets may start to rely more on company-affiliated experts to provide this analysis via content such as contributed essays and opinion pieces. As long as there is transparency that the commentator is an executive at a firm, readers will know to filter their analysis and point of view, keeping in mind which interests they are representing, and what agenda is behind their stance. The advantage for the corporation or the individual is that they can convey a lot about the company or the cause, in their own words, unfiltered by a journalist.
Another opportunity is via content that is completely under a firm’s control, like its corporate news room, and through channels such as LinkedIn, YouTube or even Twitter. Companies like Genentech and GE and most recently Johnson and Johnson have realized this potential and invested heavily in developing and publishing engaging content to directly tell their own story to their most important audiences. This ties in well to how the public is now consuming news and content— the majority of news consumption is now through online sources and through social media. A huge advantage of this approach is that it is possible to convey a point of view even around difficult or nuanced subjects in a forthright and transparent manner. This can only add to a firm’s reputation.
As the news environment changes and traditional means of public relations are more difficult to achieve, we have to constantly strive to identify emerging channels to tell our client’s story in an authentic and engaging manner.