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By Jennifer Lewis

The communications landscape is a revolving door of public relations (PR) and marketing specialists experiencing the same constant critical challenges. In recent years, the US has witnessed a pandemic, a recession, a volatile election; the list goes on. The hardships of the economy and political climate have impacted the PR industry tremendously and, while the COVID-19 public health emergency may be over, the financial and business repercussions continue to haunt the industry. 

While there are several variables disrupting the PR sector, a few critical threats continue to plague the industry.

Distrust of Journalism 

According to Edelman’s 2022 Trust Barometer, a large majority of respondents indicated they do not trust traditional media to deliver credible facts and information. When COVID-19 news cycles reached their peak in 2020 and the US election created polarizing headlines, Americans began to lose trust in mainstream journalism. With the onset of fake websites pawning themselves as legitimate news sources, citizens began to question all forms of media.

The cynicism surrounding traditional media is a significant challenge for PR professionals. Whereas earned media serves as a third-party credibility, companies and brands may no longer value earned media coverage to the extent they have in the past. Perhaps they might be fearful of consumers won’t trust their brand or product merely due to their lack of doubt in the credibility of the reporter or the media outlet, or they believe they might be put in a political bubble by appearing on a particular outlet that skews a certain way. Regardless of a company’s reasoning, the lack of desire to want to appear in a story can impact the overall PR strategy.

Oversaturated Media Landscape

As many PR professionals will attest, a powerful pitch is not enough. Various factors are considered by reporters when deciding to run a story, and the fact of the matter is a competitor may have beaten you to the punch. There is a handful of reputable journalists in each top-tier publication covering a specific beat, yet there may be hundreds of companies looking to offer themselves as expert sources. So, while a particular pitch may be the most compelling, if the timing isn’t right, a powerful story is not enough. Coupled with the latest rounds of layoffs, many mainstream media outlets are currently experiencing an oversaturated landscape from the volume of daily pitches received from PR professionals.

Demonstrating the Impact of Public Relations

While earned media coverage has traditionally been challenging to quantify with concrete ROI metrics, its value in driving brand awareness and credibility is undeniable. While PR can sometimes provide detailed analytics, its impact is evident when experienced firsthand. This might be a tough pill for executives to swallow when they rely only on tangible data to assess growth and success. PR complements marketing efforts by heightening recognition and trust, positioning the brand at the top of the awareness funnel.

By carefully crafting a brand’s reputation, increasing audience engagement on social media through promoted media coverage, and cultivating authenticity, public relations may not deliver concrete figures, but it will yield a more profound result.

It’s Time to Reinvent and Take Charge of Your PR Strategy
The PR industry’s challenges today are undeniably daunting, but they also present an opportunity for innovation and growth. PR professionals are responsible for evolving, adapting, and reassessing strategies in this new landscape. We cannot afford to be passive observers in the face of distrust, oversaturation, and the need to demonstrate our impact.

Act now and become a change-maker in the PR world:

1. Rebuild trust in journalism by emphasizing transparency, authenticity, and fact-checking in your communications.

2. Develop and refine your messaging to break through the clutter of the media landscape while being mindful of timing and the distinct value of your pitch.

3. Embrace the challenge of demonstrating the true impact of PR by aligning your efforts with tangible business goals, and always appreciate the power of a strong brand reputation.

The PR industry thrives on a dynamic and robust media environment, but it must also weather the relentless barrage of news, the delicate balance of consumer attention, and the shifting tides of public sentiment. Amidst wars, economic upheaval, and global protests, the road ahead promises to be anything but serene. Yet, it is through these very challenges that the PR industry can forge its resiliency, adaptability, and ultimate success in the years to come.

As the old saying goes, “a smooth sail never made a skilled sailor.” So, let’s chart a course toward a more credible, effective, and successful PR industry. The path forward may be unpredictable, but it is also ripe with opportunities for those who dare to navigate it with courage and grit.