I belong to several closed Facebook groups for marketing and public relations professionals to discuss business, trends and the state of the industry overall.
One of the most common topics I have seen lately is concern over whether or not public relations jobs are going to be sustainable as local news struggles and we have fewer outlets to pitch.
In my opinion, lack of outlets to pitch our clients and companies is the least of our problems if the news industry can't sustain itself, but that is a tangent for another day.
Beyond that though, public relations is about so much more than our relationships with media. It's not about pitching our clients to the same five reporters every month so that we can prove we earned that monthly retainer.
Being a public relations professional means you should possess, superb writing skills, clear and articulate communications skills and the ability to constantly find new and creative ways to promote your clients, brands or businesses.
In fact, it's a huge red flag if all a client cares about is how many media contacts you have.
Our jobs are about so much more than pitching media -- so why are we so afraid for them when media changes?
In 2008, only a few years into my career, the recession was shuttering newspapers and magazines every day.
There was literally a Twitter feed called "The Media is Dying" that would announce layoffs, bankruptcies and closures in the media industry.
The media was not dying.
The media was evolving.
And 10 years later, it is evolving again.
The hyper local boom and bust
As magazines and newspapers shuttered their print outlets, those same companies invested in a larger online presence.
Blogs and hyper local news sites seemed to supplant the paper versions of traditional media.
The hyper local website emerged as the new frontier in online publishing.
A lot of these publishers thought that the Examiner.com model was the solution to the evolving media landscape, but they were quickly proved otherwise (myself included -- I invested in a franchise of hyper local websites in 2012 only to shutter in 2014).
Daily Candy, Grub Street, Gothamist/Chicagoist and most recently DNA Info are all proof positive that sustaining media traffic and building a viable online publishing business is really hard.
Once again, publicists that began relying on these types of news outlets to break their stories and run their exclusives are left wondering what's next?
If brands with deep pockets, investor backing and celebrity editorial boards can't make it, then how are the independent bloggers with one virtual assistant and a fancy camera ever going to sustain a scalable business?
Will the blogger bubble burst?
As the media landscape has grown slimmer and slimmer over the past decades, blogs and "social influencers" are becoming the new "it" media.
Blogging can be incredibly lucrative, with some taking home seven-figure paychecks at the end of the year. I know bloggers and who charge more than $5,000 for a blog post.
Seeing this kind of early success, it's not at all surprising that these days, anyone with a laptop and access to the internet is blogging.
As bloggers began to compete with major media companies for website traffic, publicists evolved.
In 2006 or 2007, no publicist worth her salt would tell a client they needed to pay for coverage.
Fast forward 10+ years and these same publicists are suddenly serving as talent brokers and media buyers, building fees into their budgets so that they could eke out blog coverage in place of the once coveted traditional media coverage.
Even though blogging can be very lucrative, I can't imagine a scenario where brands are going to continue to pay four or even five figures for one piece of content or worse -- one photograph.
I have heard of bloggers that charge $10,000 for unlimited licensing of one photo). You could buy about 600 stock photos for that. Really good ones, too.
As someone who has been a blogger for nearly a decade and in communications even longer, I believe that brands are going to tire of paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for coverage when there is no proven ROI.
The outlets who understand this will rise to the top, and the rest will experience the same downturn that our friends in online publishing have already experienced.
And that will leave us where, exactly?
My guess? Brand-to-brand communication.
The truth is, communications is online now.
Businesses, brands and even celebrities now have all of the tools that media companies have to tell their stories.
It used to be a big deal for a celebrity to give an exclusive interview or have their picture on the cover of People Magazine.
Now, they can give the interview in an Instagram story and they can break their own news on their blogs or on Twitter.
Yes, traditional earned media -- and advertising -- have tremendous value, but it is very different than it once was and brands no longer rely on it as the sole source of message distribution.
I work in-house for a real estate brokerage and although we still rely heavily on earned media and paid media (advertising), we are seeing an increasing value in our owned media and social media.
We have our own blog where we can create the story we want to tell, and social networks where we can distribute those stories.
When we need sources or help telling those stories, we look to other brands -- in this case, other local businesses -- who have expertise that we as a real estate firm do not.
Some of the biggest brands out there are their own content creators -- Whole Foods, Capitol One, American Express and Purina are all brands with global reach that have become their own megaphone.
I could write an entire post about why I believe that every single brand -- even if you're a brand of one -- should be creating its own content.
That's a story for another day.
The media isn't dying. It's changing. That means we have to change too.
Thoughts on new and traditional media, current events, life in Chicago and the occasional small Chihuahua photo.