In 1991 a client of mine appeared in both Entrepreneur and INC. magazine in the same month and with a fabulous photo. The photo was also the same and both editors hit me pretty hard.

I knew the rules but one editor ran it a month ahead of the planned date.

So in that October issue both magazines featured this great young company, Juice Club with the young management team lying in a pile of oranges.

That company became Jamba Juice within six months, but it took me that same amount of time to mend my relationships with those editors. As a PR pro I needed those editors more than that client!

Relationships were what it was all about between us and the media. That editor, reporter, producer had to trust you and know you. I had the industry by the tail because I had great relationships and my clients knew my policy.

I would never lie or exaggerate for them because I couldn't ever lose my media contact.

Fast forward a couple of decades. Many think it's all about the hashtag.

But PR is so much more than that.

Everyone thinks all you need to do is tweet a reporter and the job is done. I have clients who say "just call the reporter and ask them to do a bigger story". What?

I had one young and brand new marketing person tell me a week ago "there are tons of papers looking for news". Really? Not only are there no longer tons of papers, but the ones still around and even those from the past do not consider a franchise convention in the area as news.

I don't expect my clients or those who do not work with the media to know exactly what is going on out there. But here are some frightening facts.

  • In August, the Cleveland Plain Dealer lay off put one-third of its staff out of work and Gannett also began laying off hundreds of reporters/staff members at paper's such as Indianapolis Star, Arizona Republic, Cincinnati Enquirer, Kentucky, Enquirer, Green Bay Press Gazette, Des Moines Register, Tennessean.

  • Major metro dailies that have cut frequency or adopted online-only models: Ann Arbor News, Capital Times, Catskill Daily Mail & Hudson Register-Star, Christian Science Monitor, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, East Valley Tribune, Flint Journal, Bay City Times, Saginaw News, Harrisburg Patriot-News, Syracuse Post-Standard, New Orleans Times-Picayune, Birmingham News, Huntsville Times, Mobile Press-Register, Portland Oregonian, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Daily Press, Mesabi Daily News, Red Wing Republican Eagle, Journal Register, Tonawanda News, Portsmouth Daily Times, Nevada Appeal, Clarksdale Press Register, Rushville Republican, Eden Daily News, Reidsville Review, Frederick News-Post, Kane County Chronicle, Sidney Daily News, Piqua Daily Call, Troy Daily News, Pittsburg Morning Sun, Marion Daily Republican, Kewanee Star Courier, Daily Review Atlas, McPherson Sentinel, Standard Journal, Daily Californian, Daily Orange, Las Vegas Optic, Burlington County Times, Bucks County Courier Times, California Aggie, Mt. Airy Messenger, Hernando Today, Superior Telegram, Capital Times, Minnesota Daily, Kansas City Kansan, Elgin Courier News, Klamath Falls Herald and News, Columbia Missourian, and the Washington Times.

  • U.S. metro dailies that have closed since the start of the recession: Tucson Citizen, Rocky Mountain News, Baltimore Examiner, Kentucky Post, Cincinnati Post, King County Journal, Union City Register-Tribune, Halifax Daily News, Albuquerque Tribune, South Idaho Press, San Juan Star, Honolulu Advertiser

  • Since 2008, more than 166 newspapers in the United States have closed down or stopped publishing a print edition, according to Paper Cuts, a website dedicated to tracking the US press industry downturn. More than 39 print titles shut down in 2008, and 109 did so in 2009. So far in 2010, more than 18 papers have vanished. Since March 2007, there have been nearly 35,000 job losses or redundancies.

  • The following newspapers and newspaper chains have filed for bankruptcy reorganization: Tribune Company, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the Philadelphia Newspapers company, the Chicago Sun Times, who last year fired their entire photo department, the Journal Register Co., American Community Newspapers, Freedom Communications, Heartland Publications, Creative Loafing and the Columbian newspaper in Vancouver. Others, such as Morris Publishing and Affiliated Media (the parent company of MediaNews Group), did bankruptcy reorganization filings prearranged with creditors.

  • It's not just newspapers! Major newsweeklies such as U.S. News & World Report, Time, The Economist, and Newsweek have majorly cut back on spending and space. Time, the only major print newsweekly left standing, cut 5% of its staff in early 2013.

  • A growing list of media outlets, including Forbes magazine, use technology to produce content by way of algorithm, no human reporter necessary.

  • Local TV affiliates across the country are operating with skeleton staffs. Anchors are not only doing their own reporting, but their own videotaping as well. Sports, weather and traffic now account on average for 40% of the content produced on the newscasts and story lengths have shrunk.

  • Estimates for newspaper newsroom cutbacks in 2012 put the industry down 30% since its peak in 2000 and below 40,000 full-time professional employees for the first time since 1987.

Fortunately it was my job to see this coming a long time ago and we evolved over this time to perfect what works today.

But even as I did see "the cheese moving" I don't think any of us in the business expected to have a literal wipeout of the hundreds of respected titles and major dailies that occurred and in a very short period of time.

The battle for print space is a big one.

Now, more than ever you need an expert to position your company and control the messaging.

It is a mistake to think that just because you are good on social media you have a real public relations program. The new buzz term is "content marketing". But that constitutes a whole other article.

Rhonda Sanderson is president/founder of Sanderson & Associates PR, a public relations firm that has been specializing in franchising since 1986. www.sandersonpr.com

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