A U.S. survey conducted by the Public Relations Global Network (PRGN), of which Roopco is a longstanding member, revealed that it has become significantly more challenging in recent years for even well-known, industry-leading brands to generate earned media placements.
These findings were published in PRGN’s 2023 State of Earned Media Report, which provides an in-depth analysis of the current state of earned media on a national scale and offers several strategic recommendations for brands that want to share their stories more effectively in the year ahead.
The comprehensive survey, conducted in September 2023, was administered to nearly 80 seasoned communications experts across a dozen global public relations agencies associated with PRGN.
Key Findings From the 2023 State of Earned Media Report
Survey results indicated a unanimous consensus among respondents that it takes considerably more time and effort to craft a highly newsworthy story angle that results in a media placement. Competition from other stories is at a high, and it now takes a lot more for a pitch to stand out from the noise.
“Generating news coverage for our clients has required significantly more creativity, manpower and resources than it did just a few years ago,” echoed Anne A. Buchanan, APR, president of Buchanan Public Relations, a fellow PRGN member agency based out of Philadelphia. “This is a serious challenge being felt among public relations professionals across the country.”
Another key finding from the survey confirmed, unsurprisingly, that national and top-tier media outlets are the most difficult platforms on which to secure earned media. Nearly 60% cited print media as the most difficult medium for media coverage, while 46% ranked television as most challenging.
Shrinking newsrooms and limited bandwidths among reporters as a result of ever-diminishing media revenue were cited as key factors contributing to this challenge. Respondents also identified the impact of rapidly advancing technologies like generative AI and the post-COVID environment as other key reasons for the particularly difficult media landscape we’ve seen in more recent years.
This report underscores the importance for brands to understand these shifts in the media landscape and to adapt their communications tactics—and expectations—accordingly in 2024.
Recommendations for Overcoming These Challenges
Despite this shift, one thing remains clear: there are many compelling stories to be told. This has not—and will not—change. What has changed is that newsrooms no longer have the same capacity.
So, where does that leave us as we seek to amplify visibility for the brands we represent?
As PR and communications professionals, we must find ways to get more creative and think outside the box. How can we package the story pitch in a way that hasn’t yet been done? Which visuals will be most engaging and impactful? What statistics and industry research can we offer to support the story?
It’s also crucial to do as much legwork for the media as possible before pitching. This means not only tailoring your story pitch to a specific reporter, but also bringing that idea to life by already having built out all key details, created supporting visuals and established subject matter experts for interview.
“With trade media in particular, your success rate of landing earned media will heavily depend on the specific industry that you are pitching,” said Brad Kostka, president of Roopco. “We find this to be especially true with our B2B clients, such as in manufacturing and private equity. The more niche your industry, or the more often your industry faces regulatory changes, the better your odds will be.”
That said, landing placements in a niche business trade is a very different game than pitching more mainstream media outlets. Mainstream typically looks for expert sources to support a story written by a reporter, while business trades live—and die—by contributed content.
In other words, this means that your business has the opportunity to cultivate your subject matter experts into industry thought leaders by regularly contributing high-quality, pre-written content that addresses highly niche topics, challenges or trends tailored to that publication’s audience.
Paid media opportunities have also been on the rise—a friendly handshake of sorts that mutually benefits both the media outlet (revenue) and the advertiser (content freedom). This push for paid models has encouraged businesses to introduce paid media strategies into their communications mix in order to ensure coverage. The key with paid media, however, is to focus on education over promotion.
And while media relations is certainly a piece of the puzzle, survey respondents are in strong consensus that other marketing channels—such as podcasts, newsletters, influencer marketing and digital advertising, should be considered as another means of telling your brand’s story in 2024.