By Kevin Byrnes
Vice News. Buzzfeed. iPhones. Customized media. Blogs. Bloggers. Digital technology. The shrinking print media. Facebook live. Podcasts. Those are a few samples of the changing media landscape with which we live with now professionally.
In my prior blogs, I have shared that I am of a certain level of experience in my professional life. One of my significant career moves was being hired by CBS News in their news services division as a national sports producer. I was proud to be Kevin from CBS in the early days of my time with the company. Plus, I idolized Dan Rather, having read his books. Additionally, I had watched Walter Cronkite, with his signature sign off at the end of each broadcast, “and that’s the way it is.” CBS was my source for national news and now I worked for them. Wow!
Not long after I had started with CBS, I was monitoring a sports news feed when the executive producer of Newspath, the unit that I worked for, came into the record room, where the incoming feeds were recorded. The news folks had ordered in a feed to watch a transmission of something from Cable News Network (aka, CNN). CNN was the new kid on the block at the time. CNN’s arrival, followed by other cable news outlets, revolutionized television news, literally creating the 24/7 news cycle that is common place now on the local and national levels. Yet, when I think back, the changes in media that are occurring now are as equally revolutionary if not more so than to that era early in my career.
As PR practitioners, what can we do to thrive in this editorial and technological earthquake that is ongoing in the media and our craft? Here are a couple of suggestions from my own experiences.
Practice acceptance of what is.
In my opinion, it does not make sense to pine for and glorify the “good old days” of how media and journalism, for that matter, “used to be.” The fact is, people consume information far differently than watching the 6:00 p.m. news or reading the morning newspaper before heading off to work. So? So work with the media as it is today—for better and sometimes worse—on behalf of your clients or in my case, the City of Birmingham.
When I was doing independent PR work prior to coming to the City, I sent out a bevy of pitches on behalf of a retail client. I had one taker, a young writer from Buzzfeed. I knew very little about Buzzfeed at the time. Yet, the writer was curious—an inherent trait of journalists young and old—and ended up interviewing our client. My boss was happy. The client was happy. Enough said! My suggestion is to get familiar with the Buzzfeed’s and Vice News’ of the world as well as others in the wave of new media and meet them where they are! Which leads to,
Become a versatile practitioner.
I taught myself how to use Facebook Live. I learned what a powerful tool the I-Phone is for taking pictures and shooting video that help shape the messages I craft in my job with the City. There’s an old term from my t-v news days that applies to us as PR practitioners now. As technology shrunk the size of television equipment, the photographers became “one man or one woman” bands, meaning they had to shoot the video, record the audio, produce the final product and make deadline. Add the components of writing, research, strategy, pitching and design and in my view, you have the template for today’s PR practitioner, given the demands of today’s media landscape and the options technology has created for messaging.
I’ll close with this. Change is inevitable in any industry. Just look at retailing. Embrace the changing media landscape as it is, particularly if media relations is a component of your job. Use the new tools to practice our craft. Network with fellow PRSA Detroit members through one of our workshops to see how they are navigating the changing media landscape in their work. By taking a few steps, there’s better chance to not only survive but thrive during this revolutionary time that we work in.
Kevin Byrnes is the Communications Director for the City of Birmingham (MI). He previously was a Communications Consultant at ByrnesPR & Media Services as well as the Senior Communications Manager for Wayne County (MI). He is a member of the Detroit PRSA chapter (national as well) and serves on the blog committee. He is also a member of the Individual Communicators Network (ICN Detroit Chapter) and Detroit Press Club.
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