By Heather Baker, @TopLineFounder
Twice in the past two weeks I’ve been in new business meetings with companies that have turned to PR because print advertising has failed them. On Friday it was an education sector organisation that hadn’t received a single enquiry from two ads placed in their core publication (they had offered voucher codes that were never used). The other company, in the B2B tech sector, had been running the same advertising programmes on the same budgets for a decade, with consistently diminishing returns.
This appears to be indicative of a wider theme – figures released in July by the Advertising Association and Warc Expenditure Report revealed that total advertising spend in UK printed press (across business, trade and national press) dropped 10% from £986m in Q1 of 2011 to £887m in Q1 2012.
I would probably put the declining value of print advertising down to decreasing print readership, readers being overwhelmed with messages from multiple sources and having less time to read their publications, causing them to skip over the ads. Furthermore, when people share great stories that they read they no longer leave the hard copy on a colleague’s desk, but instead to find the online equivalent and email it.
On the face of it, this seems like great news for the PR industry – print adverts don’t work anymore, and we could argue that this reinforces our very reason for being – the best way to build your brand and thought leadership via print media is through inclusion in the articles.
However, the death of advertising is not the boon PR has been hoping for. The majority of a print publication’s revenue comes from its advertisers and as this market shrinks, revenue will fall proportionately. This means budget cuts, which means fewer resources, more stressed and time-poor editors and reporters. The result is that placing those stories, and articles becomes harder. It requires cutting through all the crap and taking a really intelligent approach to media relations. Is the PR industry up to the task?
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