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How the fractured media landscape affects PR in 2018

Last week, it was announced that Trinity Mirror Group had acquired Richard Desmond’s Express and Star newspapers, along with OK! Magazine, in a £200m deal. There have been concerns not just over staff cuts, but also the prospect of two right-leaning titles being taken over by a left-leaning entity.

The first major newspaper acquisition in over a decade coincides with a particularly tense period for the industry, as the relationship between the public and the media continues to evolve dramatically.

Before July 2016, it was often argued that print journalism and traditional news outlets were in decline, no matter how hard they tried to transfer their readership to the online world. Social media was the rising star, and with less time on our hands and shorter attention spans, we were more likely to consume news in the form of instantaneous twitter feeds or engaging video posts. The much-fabled millennials, unlike their parents, had sussed out the agendas of traditional news titles and pioneered fresh methods of sourcing truthful, unbiased information.

That is, until the outcome of the European referendum — and later the surprise presidential victory of Donald Trump — put a spanner in the works. Fake News was named the Collins Dictionary word of the year in 2017, and it sparked a very real debate over the manipulation of opinion for political gain. We began scrutinising the political stance of online and offline publications, the personal history of journalists and the raw facts behind the sensational headlines. Social media became an echo chamber where like-minded people had their opinions validated and were rarely exposed to differing views.

Amongst the chaos, the unbelievable happened. News rooms that were once concerned for the future were suddenly in more demand than ever before. As we scramble for the latest news from an unstable world, conscientious readers are once again turning to long-running publications with journalistic standards and procedures they feel they can trust.

The rising demand for the latest political scoop has also caused news sites like Buzzfeed, who were previously known for their disposable clickbait articles, to overhaul their image and attempt to develop a reputation for quality, in-depth reporting alongside their once traditional ‘viral’ content.

When a big story breaks, the first ripples can often be felt on social media, transformed into waves by 24-hour TV news channels and finally resulting in a tsunami of coverage online from the biggest names in the industry to small, independent blogs.

It is the fractured nature of the media landscape that challenges those of us in the PR industry to think outside the box when generating publicity for clients. We must keep up to date with the latest trends and opportunities, but equally the reputation and readership of online publications. Brands can become toxic faster than ever before, leaving you with a crisis on your hands if not careful. The old saying of “there is no such thing as bad publicity” is soon to be outdated in a world quickly becoming ‘woke’.

Equally, as mentioned earlier, brands that were once toxic are reforming and presenting new opportunities for press coverage that should not be overlooked.

A modern day PR campaign should comprise of a wide range of media coverage to complement the behaviour and preferences of today’s society. We recently helped East Midlands-based manufacturing company VRCO achieve worldwide media coverage for their exciting flying car concept project, the NeoXCraft. A combination of articles on big-name websites such as Mail Online, along with articles on more specialist industry websites and regional news sources, ensured that the story reached a large audience of both the general public and those with a passionate knowledge of the automotive and engineering sectors. We also paired press coverage with radio interviews and social media buzz, generating discussion across a range of communication formats.

No one can predict the future of the media industry, but in a world where good quality reporting is an urgent requirement, there are certain to be interesting and exciting developments ahead. Our biggest challenge is to keep track of them.