How toUnderstand the Modern Public Relations Landscape

It is probably an understatement to say that life has changed significantly in the last few years. Technology’s constant march forward always impacts our lives. However, for most of us, the transformation goes well beyond the latest technological advancement. Everything from the way we work to how we interact with each other to how we prefer to get information and entertainment has rapidly evolved. The disruption of a global pandemic understandably altered many things, but the change continues even after that hopefully once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Public relations has also undergone a sea change in recent times in an effort to adapt to many of these changes. The old ways of doing business are no longer effective and don’t move the needle. New tactics, thought processes, partnerships and strategies are all now necessary to create effective PR campaigns. So, what changed, and how does the public relations landscape look now? Let’s take a look at the new public relations realities of 2024. In this article, we will discuss the following:

  • The ongoing changes that are having a huge impact on the media.
  • How public relations is adapting to these changes to be more effective.
  • What the new definition of “media” is after a period of upheaval.

WHAT CHANGED EVERYTHING?

The radical and continued decentralization of the media has had a massive impact on public relations. When magazines were in their heyday, public relations was simplified. There was a magazine for almost every subject, genre and enthusiast space. Spreading the word about new products, brands or events required reaching out to the staff of those publications through press releases, following up with phone calls and hoping editors ran with those pitches. Yes, that is somewhat of an oversimplification. However, the process was much more straightforward, with only one dominant form of media comprised of long-time staffers.

All was relatively hunky-dory until the internet came along and ruined absolutely everything (at least according to former print journalists). People’s preference for getting information and being entertained rapidly switched from magazines to online. Adding to this was that almost every major publishing company didn’t know how to handle this change. Most desperately clung to their print-first strategies and were extremely slow to move online or did so in convoluted ways. Ultimately, this lack of adaptation led to the demise of multiple publishing empires. Deemed as legacy media, the once mighty fell to give way to the rise of internet sites.

DECENTRALIZATION: THE SEQUEL

Like Hollywood’s obsession with budget-blowing subpar superhero sequels, decentralization recently returned. Once again, people’s preferences for consuming media were shifting as new formats became available. Streaming became the “new thing,” leaving many network television executives nervously eyeballing their rapidly diminishing bonuses and revenue streams. The dramatic rise in popularity of Instagram and later TikTok (read our blog post on why you need to be on TikTok) created a new form of media called influencers. YouTube grew exponentially alongside social media, becoming an absolutely massive information and entertainment platform. To get a grasp of how big YouTube is, read our blog post.

All of that turbulence also affected the once-dominant internet sites. Formerly the shiny new kids on the block, they were now going through almost the same experience magazines had years before. Visitor numbers declined as people migrated to social media, YouTube and other newer platforms. Panicked corporate leaders didn’t exactly know how to handle the shift in consumer preferences and clung to the old ways of doing business. Like sharks gorging themselves on a bloated whale carcass, private equity groups came in to feast on the remains. They shuttered some sites, merged others, cut budgets, overhead, and many staff members, and sold off what they could for a hopeful profit.

THE “NEW” NEW MEDIA

This dismantling of some websites and staff exodus further fractured the media environment. Many journalists began their own media platforms using Substack, newsletters, blog sites, websites, podcasts or a combination of all of them. Some have found more success striking out independently than sticking with their original employers. Of course, not all websites have disappeared completely, and many are still fighting for audiences. Adding to this is a mix of influencers and content creators spread out across multiple social media platforms and YouTube. Together, they form the modern media, replacing the once-dominant websites that replaced print magazines years ago.

WHAT IS PUBLIC RELATIONS NOW?

With so many recent changes to the media, it is not surprising that public relations has had to change, too. So, what does the PR landscape look like in 2024? The following are the most significant changes:

  • Influencers and Content Creators are Now Vital: Influencers and content creators were once considered secondary to traditional media. Most thought they only looked for free products and services, offering little in return. That has completely changed, as influencers and content creators are now effective parts of any public relations or marketing campaign. Finding the right ones to partner with that have engaged followers can be challenging, but they are no longer an afterthought. Influencers and content creators are now vital to any public relations efforts. Give our blog post a read, where we answer the most common questions about working with influencers.
  • A Shift in Thinking: A radically different media landscape involves new thinking and PR strategies. Press releases were once a great way to reach out to traditional media outlets. They still play a role today but are only the start of a public relations campaign. To be effective now, PR agencies need to think more like the media than ever before. Just like a museum curator selects the right components of an exhibit to capture attention, public relations specialists must do the same with content and experiences. Figuring out the right pitch and its contents is vital as the media simply won’t touch anything that isn’t of interest to them and, more importantly, their audiences.
  • Experiential Events Matter: While traditional trade shows still have their place, the media increasingly wants experiences beyond in-booth product demonstrations and walking miles of aisles. Curated experiences that organically integrate products into their intended environments allow influencers, content creators, YouTubers and media members to craft more interesting and engaging content. Experiential events also allow for a more seamless and natural product introduction that doesn’t seem forced. The result is more eyeballs on your product and better-performing content for the media for a win-win scenario. Experiential events now play an essential role in public relations. Check out our blog post on how to make an event a success.
  • Building Brand Authenticity and Authority is Key: Increasingly, people want to feel connected to brands and gravitate towards ones they deem authentic. This bond can significantly impact sales more than many think. Our blog post dives deeper into why brand authenticity absolutely matters. Now, long-term RP efforts focusing on building brand authenticity are just as important as media hits. One way a public relations campaign does this is by positioning key brand employees as subject matter experts. A PR agency can then identify trends and outlets covering those emerging stories and pitch employees for interviews, guest blog posts, podcasts and other media opportunities. All of it helps to build your brand’s authority, which also lends to its authenticity. While expertise isn’t the only component of brand authenticity, it is impossible to be an authentic brand without it.
  • Knowledge of the Landscape is a Must: Connecting with editors and the media used to follow a reasonably straight line for public relations specialists. Now, after the fractionalization of the media, that path is a more winding one filled with potential hazards and dead ends. Knowing how to navigate through this more circuitous and constantly changing landscape is imperative. Gaining that specialized knowledge takes lots of effort and constant learning from the right agency. However, without it, any public relations efforts will not be fully effective.
  • Some Things Remain the Same: While a lot has recently changed in public relations, forging genuine relationships with the media is still at its core. However, the definition of the media in 2024 has expanded to a much broader umbrella, making establishing those relationships across multiple media genres more difficult. Reverting to a more transactional approach to dealing with the media might be a temptation for some, but it is unlikely to produce results. Having a genuine interest in regularly providing media contacts with pitches and ideas that will generate interesting content for their audiences, along with serving clients’ needs, has always been a better way. That has always been true and is even more so in 2024.

THE RIGHT AGENCY CAN HELP

The right agency can effectively navigate complicated media landscapes, find the right influencers, build brand authority and has long-term relationships with the media. As an award-winning public relations agency representing top-tier brands, we can do all that and more. Our in-house PR experts have decades of experience and are supported by digital marketing, social media and content specialists. Whether your brand needs a singular public relations campaign or a complete turnkey marketing department, we can provide a solution. Contact us today to see how we can assist your brand.