Monday, February 2, 2009

If you send out a pitch letter, will somebody be there to receive it?

The drumbeat of downbeat economic news should put a chill into every public relations professional each time a new round of media and retail layoffs or closings is announced. The bullet we had been dodging has arrived.

When I read about layoffs and closings across newspapers, magazines, television stations and web sites, it's depressing and frankly numbing at this point. It's sad to see colleagues and friends lose their jobs and it sometimes makes the relationships to them even closer.

Putting it objectively, when they lose their jobs, it directly affects our jobs.

For a while, it seemed the white knight of the media world would be the web, that there would be lots of resources online to make up for the "ink on paper" losses. The blog explosion multiplied the number of opportunities to break stories and spread buzz.

Even that world is now imploding. Online advertising rates are plummeting, forcing online networks to scramble. When magazines are closing, the parent companies are not even keeping the web sites alive, such has been announced with Domino and Teen Magazine. The money is not there like it used to be.

Across all media, it's bad news. Macy's is laying off 7,000 employees, on top of Starbucks closing 300 stores, ABC letting go several hundred, kicking off another week of droves sent to the unemployment line. Less revenue is less advertising. Less advertising means layoffs.

It won't be long before it ripples through the public relations profession, which will force us to downsize their own Rolodexes and Outlook's, trickling down like this:
  • Less outlets means more competitive pitching. Survival of the fittest.
  • There may be no outlets at all for some stories.
  • Less stories means unhappy executives and clients.
  • Then there are layoffs or agencies are moved around like shuffling cards.
  • Public relations as a whole is put a little more at risk compared to advertising as a better bang for the buck proposition.

Where will this all lead?

We're all going to have to get much better at pitching and targeting, and that's a good thing.

If you have not boned up on your social media skills, and there's a surprising amount who haven't, it will be time to dive in quickly.

The editors, producers, reporters and bloggers who still have jobs will have their PR noise factor ratcheted up, since they will be stretched to the core, probably juggling multiple duties.

Some publicists may have to rethink their careers and specialties.

If you send out a pitch letter, will somebody be there to receive it?

If there is, it may be sitting there for a long time.

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