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The upside to journalist turnover

The relationship question used to rule the PR agency RFP process, especially when a company was deciding between two equally-qualified firms: How many journalists do you have solid relationships with? The more names you could drop from your Rolodex, the better chance you had of earning the business.

Even 5 years ago, agencies like Inprela that specialized in niche industries had a fairly easy time establishing and maintaining relationships with editors of key publications. Editor tenure at trade journals was high. You could go to the same trade shows every year and expect to see the same faces. But the media landscape has changed dramatically and that’s no longer the case.

In fact, the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction. It now appears journalist turnover is at an all-time high. Editors and writers are jumping faster than a corn kernel in a microwave. And the gray-haired journalists are fading faster than a denim jacket at an ‘80s throwback party. Okay, you get my point.

With journalist turnover being the new norm, especially among healthcare trade publications, I’ve had several clients ask me: What do we do about this? It’s frustrating, no doubt. But I’m here to tell you: embrace it. It can be a huge opportunity for your brand.

Age is just a number

As veteran journalists leave, publishers must bring in new recruits. Yes, some of them are quite young. Their LinkedIn profile may indicate they are a recent college grad or entirely new to covering your industry. While they may be “green”, don’t underestimate them. From our experience, publishers are quite selective in their hiring practices and will only bring in folks that can uphold the journalistic standards of their publication. Don’t assume the interview isn’t worth your time or, worse yet, presume the questions will be easy. Prepare thoroughly and bring your “A” game. Some of our healthcare clients’ best media coverage this year have been articles written by journalists less than 4 months into their position. As two examples, check out this Prodigo Solutions company profile, and this tips article featuring Stryker.

Be helpful

When journalist turnover happens, journals don’t stop the presses. The news must go on. Some positions go unfilled, leaving the remaining editorial staff to pick up the extra work. When positions are filled, especially at the highest levels (like editor in chief), there’s a lot of catch-up work for new editors to do. In either scenario, resources are tight and stress is high. Journalists appreciate those who step in to help them out in a pinch. Companies and thought leaders capable of providing quality content in a timely manner can secure immediate editorial coverage and establish a strong relationship with the new editor that will pay future dividends.

Don’t rest on your laurels

PR has always been about relationships, and that might be even truer in today’s reality of high turnover. The job is a little tougher and requires more diligence than it ever has. You and your PR firm must stay in regular contact with your key publications. Be inquisitive, watch for signs of a shift in editorial staffing, and step in for support. You won’t regret it.

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