No, It’s Not Who You Know

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Prospects, and even clients, often ask us to talk about our relationships with the media. And while cultivating and maintaining solid ties with journalists, editors, and influencers is something we do all the time, it plays a much less important role than it did 5 years ago. Today it’s helpful but not necessary.

Wait, what? Isn’t it about who you know and how well you know them? Doesn’t the “From” line in an email help get that message opened? If you believe that, you probably still think the number on the caller ID matters too. (Most journalists don’t take calls anymore unless you’re calling them back!)

The media is changing people, dramatically, and the quality of relationships is trumped by the relevance of and easy access to the story.

Here’s why:

1. The Rise of Digital Platforms:

With the advent of social media, blogs, and podcasts, the gatekeeping role of traditional media has greatly diminished. Today, anyone with an internet connection can publish content and reach a potentially vast audience without the need for traditional media intermediaries. This democratization of content creation has altered how we work.

2. Fragmentation and Decimation of Media:

The media landscape is no longer dominated by a few major players. Instead, it has fragmented into countless niche outlets catering to specific interests and demographics. This shift requires media relations professionals to adopt a more diversified approach. At the same time, media outlets are closing at an alarming pace, and most journalists do not remain in the same job or same news outlet for long tenures. 

3. Gone are the days of “beat” reporting. 

Newsrooms have become decentralized thanks to remote work, and we are no longer seeing journalists exclusively covering a certain “beat” like we did a few years ago. With smaller staffs and fewer resources, we’re seeing a more “all hands on deck” approach among journalistic teams and a greater reliance on freelancers. (It’s not uncommon to see an email signature with Reporter/Staff Photographer today, where these two disciplines would have required two trained professionals in the past.)  Today we cast a very wide net out to freelancers to yield the same results we used to get by going directly to our trusted contacts. 

All of this means the writers we used to work with on specific topics are not necessarily the “right” people any longer.  As a result, we can’t just rely on our relationships alone to make a story happen. We need to keep at it to unearth who’s assigned what story and what freelancers are on the bench for each target publication.  Add to this understanding the ebb and flow of what’s needed to make it “onto the page” or into the broadcast – media relations counts on, yes relationships, and also investigative skills, and moving quickly to match what the writer needs with the information you have to provide. 

So, “Who do you know?” is no longer the right question. “How do you work?” is what you really want to know.