Consider it a wake-up call for brands and organizations whose content marketing efforts are half-baked and underfunded.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Survey, newsroom employment in the U.S. fell 23 percent between 2008 and 2017.
During the same period, the number of PR professionals has surged. In keeping with the ratio tracked by Muck Rack, that translates into six PR pros for every one journalist.
With that ratio in mind, PR and marketing managers can ill afford to stick with the status quo when it comes to their content marketing efforts. Indeed, the downward spiral in the number of U.S. journalists — juxtaposed with the upward trend in the number of communications pros — will force brands to become quasi media companies.
This isn’t about bolstering your “digital PR” efforts. You need to change the culture.
Depending on the business sector and local media markets, more and more companies are looking at fewer and fewer news outlets to pitch their stories. It’s your garden-variety disintermediation, as companies increasingly distribute their content directly to consumers and/or B2B audiences without a filter.
Hold on, marketing managers say.
We supply our websites and social channels with a steady stream of original and branded content. Via our YouTube channel, we offer plenty of online video to feed consumers’ growing appetite for visual communications. And, oh yes, our C-suite executives deliver online-video messages to our constituents via multiple media channels on a pretty regular basis.
That’s all well and good, but largely tactical.
If marketers want to make content marketing core they’re going to need “a bigger boat.”
That means having regularly scheduled and original programming steeped in storytelling and rich media. It means being less risk-averse and exploring new communications channels and products.
Marketing managers need to stretch their imagination for how to create content that will not only separate their company from competitors, but grab viewers by the throat and leave them wanting more.
How much longer until companies start to produce, say, the “The Acme Co. 5:00 News,” “Globex Corp.’s Weekly Business Report,” and other branded/themed programming based on a broadcast-news model?
Rather than distribute content whenever it’s ready, companies need to condition their customers for “appointment” viewing, e.g., regular news programming, website serials and YouTube series and documentaries, anchored by consistent scheduling.
As part of what must be an ongoing exercise, brands also need to find senior executives and employees — regardless of where they reside on the organizational chart — who are eager to help create ideas for original branded programming.
Senior managers should also encourage employees who are media-ready and can play the role of the “talent” needed to host (and promote) the various programming.
This is a major undertaking that will fundamentally change how brands and organizations develop, produce and distribute original content. But when they take a cold-eyed look at the ongoing deterioration of traditional media, they have little choice.
PR pros, whose numbers are growing steadily, are in a good position to drive the strategy, coordinate across the company with departments such as finance, product development and sales, and develop new editorial content.
Above all, communicators need to start thinking like programming strategists with business acumen. Their scope needs to be much larger.
In the not-too-distant future communicators will be evaluated increasingly based on the company’s branded programming and cultivating a new marketing model appealing to both customers and prospects.
There’s barely time to wait.