I think we can all agree the “teens” (2010-2019) reshaped the media landscape in ways teenage years reshape people: it was a. hot. mess. From a media relations strategy perspective, these were complex, challenging, sometimes daunting, often awkward, yet also very exciting years. They were filled with almost equal parts hope and dread. And, yes, plenty of drama. (Yep, that sounds like my teenage years. How about yours?) Public relations strategists and media relations practitioners had their work cut out for them. But was it all because of the political news climate and the difficulty it created when when clients didn’t have (or didn’t dare offer) anything political to say? Yes and no.
Certainly, all the political news and world-shaping events took center stage as far as media attention. But our clients still had and will continue to have a voice among complex business and social issues that remain an important part of the national dialogue.
Let’s step back. What happened in the last decade was impossible to predict. In 2009, as the new decade loomed, if someone accurately forecasted what the media landscape would look like for PR practitioners in 2019, many would have thrown in the towel, saying “Well, that’s it. We’re out of business.” Thankfully this wasn’t the case. We still succeeded in securing coverage. Lots of it. It just took a new formula. For Stern, this meant thinking in headlines. Headlines moved around, in and out of the readers’ view with dizzying speed in the “teens.” Everything was “breaking news,” even when it wasn’t. Like the average teenager with a tragically short attention span, it was often hard to follow.
By thinking in headlines, however, we learned that our pitching strategy needed to offer some combination of provocative, counterintuitive and surprising messages and ideas. Without at least one of those ingredients, we would have failed miserably.By thinking in headlines, we learned that our pitching strategy needed provocative, counterintuitive and surprising messages and ideas.Click To Tweet
Have We Reached “Peak” Media?
As we take a moment to both look back and ahead, there’s one question on my mind: Have we reached “peak” media? I believe the decade to come will tell us a lot about that answer. Just remember, for every prediction about the demise of media, it seemed like a terrific new platform (Vox, Axios, etc.) appeared in its wake. And look at how podcasts essentially rose from the ashes in recent years. Sure, there may be less focus these days on print media, but there is no shortage of media itself. And that’s something we can all be thankful for and hopeful about going forward. We’re going to need it.
So, what can we expect going forward into the ’20s? I foresee the next decade as another “roaring ’20s” but in an altogether different way. As someone who has been doing this kind of work for more than 20 years, I don’t believe the fever pitch and rapid pace of how the media is operating and how people are consuming it can be sustained. That’s the kind of peak media I think we’ve reached. People are ready for a more thoughtful analysis of issues. They are ready for less vitriol. They are ready for common ground. Perhaps what’s going to “roar” in these ’20s is our collective voice, rallying us all to come together again. The media will have a lot to say about whether we can.