Getting the Most Out of Shrinking Newsrooms

I recently attended a PR Net breakfast at the Innovation Hub in Pretoria. The guest speaker was Virginia Keppler, Beeld Pretoria’s News Editor, who gave us insights into the impact of shrinking news rooms.

In 2013, the Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC) recorded that South African newspapers remain under intense pressure, with figures for the second quarter of 2013 indicating that newspapers recorded an overall average circulation decline of 3.2%. The year-on-year drop from the corresponding period in 2012 was even more dramatic, showing a decline of 10.5% from 4.1-million.

Economic pressure, poor newspaper sales and the expansion of digital news on mobile devices such as smart phones, laptops and tablets have played a major role in this trend.

Virginia also went on to give us a few valuable tips on how to package info in such a way that it is in a convenient, print-ready format written from the journalist`s perspective, so gaining publicity could still be achieved.

The four main tips included:

  • Before sending a press release, make sure you understand the audience, and whether or not it’s relevant to the publication (and the journo you are sending it to).
  • When sending press releases, keep them short, simple and straight to the point – you must communicate the importance of your story in 1-2 sentences.  Always be sure to narrow it down to the facts!
  • Remember that people want to feel something when they read a story (although this is not always relevant to business/finance/corporate news) so be selective with your headline and images – what headline would grab your attention?
  • If you are going to use pictures – use images that ignite emotion, instead of the typical “CEO handing over a cheque to a CSI Cause”.

I found the morning to be a great refresher about what every PR consultant ought to know, and we gained first hand industry knowledge from someone with deep experience. Thank you Virginia.

Written by Arnold Tshimanga