Navigating the Media Apocalypse

Navigating the Media Apocalypse

Published on: January 29, 2024
Blurry image of a newsroom

The media landscape continues to change with some significant shifts over the past several months including layoffs, furloughs and consolidation of media outlets. The walkouts at Forbes made headlines last week. In recent months several major news organizations announced substantial workforce reductions, while others faced walkouts to protest planned cuts at mass media company Condé Nast and outlets like the New York Daily News. This marks a notable shift in the media landscape that some have dubbed the Media Apocalypse. Among the impacted outlets:  



As newsroom employees work to generate public support with traditional pickets and digital advocacy, our team at MikeWorldWide has been thinking about big picture issues like the human impact and the risks to democracy of a shrinking news industry. We also recognize that layoffs like the ones above pose implications for the public relations industry and the day-to-day realities of telling stories for our clients. Shrinking newsrooms. Beat reporters as an endangered species. The rise of AI generated stories. More than ever, we must closely monitor the media landscape, keeping an eye on reporters’ social media activities to ensure that our pitches are timely and sensitive to the challenges they may be facing personally and professionally.    


Here are some things that should be top of mind in this news environment:    


  • Lead with empathy: Journalists are people, and they are under increased mental and emotional stress. They may be fearful for their jobs, saying goodbye to colleagues and friends, or directly impacted themselves. Be mindful of layoffs and labor disruptions and avoid being tone deaf to the situations by plunging right into pitches or diving into interviews.      


  • Be prepared with complete packages: When pitching media, we will need to be armed with everything they may need at the ready, including any report materials (drafts are ok!), spokespeople (and their availability), and visual assets (headshots, images, multimedia content). This will minimize the back and forth and help journalists with increasing workloads to be efficient, productive, and competitive in a 24/7 news cycle.  


  • Power your pitches with data: With fewer reporters available to generate stories, your stories need to really rise to the top. Compelling data to support your story has gone from a nice to have to a must have today. And even with data, there will be no guarantees.   


  • Think about spokespeople as differentiators, not just amplifiers: Effective spokespeople can be a key differentiator in an increasingly competitive news environment. They may be incredibly knowledgeable – but are they quotable? Readily available? Brief? A spokesperson who can help a reporter who may have been recently thrust into a new subject matter, a quick education on the topic, help in connecting the dots and the ability to provide insights (not just messages) will be in demand. And if they can do so with smart brevity and quotability, their dance cards will be full.   


  • Embrace a content strategy and tell your own stories: We have been saying for years that brands can be their own channels. If you have not leaned into a content strategy, there has never been a better time to start. Social platforms like LinkedIn have morphed into news outlets of their own, and social channels of all kinds are a popular forum for journalists to source stories. Make sure your content is “earned worthy” with an editorial style for maximum effectiveness.  


  • Optimize your content for search: This is especially critical for thought leadership content. With less time for interviews, it is important that your content is easy to digest and even easier to find. We can expect journalists to continue to rely on third party content and data to round out stories. It should be easy to find your content, and even easier to find and pull a great quote or soundbite. Be sure you have used SEM and SEO strategies to ensure that your content can be found by customers, employees, journalists – and sourced by AI tools.  


As we navigate the changes that have been center stage, it is also important to be thinking about what is around the corner for our profession. We can expect more AI generated content in newsrooms and beyond. From a journalistic standpoint, many of the strategies previously outlined can help create turnkey ways for a company’s messages to be at the forefront.  


It is also important to be vigilant as the kinks of using AI get worked out.  We expect that newsrooms may rely more heavily on AI to generate or edit stories while remaining diligent about accuracy and dependability of the data and sources cited in those stories. However, with the plethora of misinformation and disinformation as a backdrop, coupled with the challenge of AI hallucinations, we recommend establishing robust media monitoring protocols to ensure that errors or misrepresentations do not become cemented in the narrative about your company or brand.   


And last, but not least, the 2024 elections are upon us. While many organizations will commit to remaining “purple” the increased polarization of everything (and everyone) creates risks for even the most passive of observers. Like the famous Skittles incident of the election of 2016, brands may find themselves inadvertently pulled into the cross hairs and establishing criteria for managing and reacting to situations in real time.   If you haven’t reviewed tested and refreshed your crisis protocols, this would be a good time to do so.   


From a practical and proactive storytelling perspective, we should expect journalist availability to be even more limited as resources are diverted from routine reporting to covering the candidates’ every move. Throughout the 2016 election and the subsequent administration, many newsrooms were faced with a shortage of time and talent to cover the rapid series of events occurring at breathtaking speed. Journalists shared that they had marching orders to drop stories – even highly newsworthy stories – to cover the President – from every area of the masthead. Drafting from existing news cycles, established media relationships and a keen “nose for news” will become even more critical to earned media success as 2024 progresses.    


As always, flexibility and adaptability will be key for anyone in the communications sector. The one thing we can count on is that the environment will be dynamic and fast-moving.