Finding Your Way Through Today’s Newspaper Jungle

Perhaps lost amid the news that rolled across your electronic and office desktop last week was the announcement that 163-year-old family owned McClatchy Co., the second largest newspaper group in the United States, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. 

From the Sacramento Bee to the Miami Herald, the Charlotte Observerto the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, McClatchy papers have long symbolized the very best in independent journalism. Even the company’s small paper in Anchorage, where I grew up, has racked up countless awards for its investigative reporting. 

The story for those who work in media and PR isn’t that digital disruption is threatening another publishing dynasty. It’s that the earned media news hole is getting smaller. Creating a better press release pitch becomes essential for brands seeking to tell their story in a more credible context.

Why All PR Pros Need to Adjust

When family control of a business gives way to investor capital, in this case hedge fund Chatham Asset Management LLC, stakeholder interests must take a back seat to shareholder value. Capitalism eats journalism in the Darwinian struggle for survival. Disruption isn’t pretty. 

It’s a picture we’ve seen play out in the publishing space for a number of years now.  Constant consolidation, job cuts and re-defined job roles. Fewer editors and reporters. More regional news, less local. Newsroom access and availability shrinks. 

How You Can Not only Survive, but Thrive 

Public relations pros can either lament the current state of affairs (and many have) or figure out more effective ways to develop strategy and tactical approaches. Here’s a few recommendations on how to improve your press release pitch content:

  • Drop the wordy pitch about your great story idea. The editor already has 10. 
  • Create publication-ready, research-supported content that requires little editing
  • Tell your brand story through experiences, not philosophy
  • Humanize your CEO or subject matter expert in submitted quotes
  • Include visuals, especially video.   
  • Write snappy email subject lines that convey a sense of urgency 
  • Craft email pitches that explicitly explain the relevance of your narrative – early
  • Move to social channels for your follow-up. Avoid desperate, needy emails.

The silver lining in this era of disruption is that earned media has become more valuable than ever. Scarcity creates opportunity. 

Will you seize the day, or will it seize you? 

Michael Shepherd

Michael serves as Managing Partner of The Shepherd Group, a brand and communications firm with offices in Seattle and Newport Beach. A former journalist, he specializes in building narratives through discovery, design, and development of branded editorial and visual content.