Cision’s ‘State of the Media’ Report Offers Roadmap for Better Media Relationships in the COVID-19 Era

Cision is out with its annual State of the Media Report, and it is worth a read. It focuses on the impact COVID-19 has had on the day-to-day life of reporters, and there are a few key lessons for those of us in PR:

  • Keep pitches short: Among reporters’ comments: “Directly tell me in one or two sentences why this is important for the public to know about;” “Put your point in the first five words. Skip all blandishments;” “Wasting prime real estate in the first line saying ‘For Immediate Release.’ Or, ‘I hope this finds you well.’ We need to see what it’s about without having to open it.”
  • Make experts available via phone: “Respondents deemed interviews the most trustworthy non-brand source.”
  • Timing your pitches: Reporters receive the most pitches on Mondays, and they decline consistently each successive day through Friday. Waiting until late in the week may give your pitch less competition. And Sunday pitches may work best – no competition at all on the eve of a workday.
  • The moment is fleeting: Nearly half of reporters do not plan what they will be covering more than a day in advance. They are reacting to events and opportunities in real-time.
  • Stay focused: Blankety pitches that are not customized generally get nowhere.

Layoffs, Salary Cuts, Furloughs Among IPG Agencies’ Response to COVID-19

Interpublic Group of Cos. – parent company to agencies such as Weber Shandwick, Golin, FCB and McCann – released its Q1 earnings earlier this week, and Lindsay Rittenhouse at AdAge reported on some of the details about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • Like its competitor Publicis Groupe did in North America, IPG posted a slight organic revenue increase – 0.8% – but noted that it faces a “very difficult second quarter”
  • IPG acknowledged it has implemented cost-cutting measures such as “deferred merit increases, freezes on hiring and temporary labor, major cuts in non-essential spending, furloughs in markets where that option is available and salary reductions where possible or appropriate”
  • IPG reduced base compensation up to 25% at a number of its agencies
  • Management team salaries at the holding company level have “are deeper than anything else … seen in the industry”
  • IPG is planning additional “staffing reductions” at firms who have significant clients in the retail, hospitality and event industries

Sprocket Shuts Down Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

Denver PR agency Sprocket is closing effective this month as the economic damage to agencies across the country continues due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Aubrey Gordon founded the primarily virtual firm 13 years ago, and its clients included a mix of those in the consumer & lifestyle products, real estate, restaurants & hospitality, tech, healthcare and B2B industries.

Update: Aubrey shared that the COVID-19 pandemic was coincidental to her closing Sprocket. She made the decision to shutter the agency because she wanted to get back to marketing strategy rather than running a business, and that she has accepted a position as VP of Marketing at 8z Real Estate.

Mark Harden Named Editor at Colorado Community Media

Congratulations to longtime Denver journalist Mark Harden on being named editor at Colorado Community Media. CCM owns 18 weekly newspapers and two monthly publications across the metro Denver area that have a combined audience of more than 300,000 people. Harden formerly was managing editor of Colorado Politics, and prior to that spent a decade at the Denver Business Journal.

Omnicom Group Latest to Announce Job Cuts, Furloughs

Omnicom Group is the latest agency parent company to warn of impending job cuts and furloughs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In a memo to staff, Omnicom chairman and CEO John Wren shared:

Unfortunately, COVID-19 has had a profound impact on the economy, on our clients’ businesses, and in turn, on ours. While we hope for a swift recovery, we have to respond quickly to the reality of the moment, to ensure the sustainability of our business and our ability to continue to provide our clients with outstanding service. 

Since my last note to you, we have solidified some of the internal measures to adjust our business to meet the changing needs of our clients. Regrettably, this will include furloughs and staff reductions across many of our agencies. We are doing everything we can to limit staff reductions, and to take care of those who are affected.

Publicis Groupe Releases Q1 Earnings Report, Indicates U.S. PR Firms Can Expect Double-Digit Revenue Declines in Q2

French multinational marketing company Publicis Groupe, the parent company of Qorvis/MSLGroup among other advertising and PR firms, shared its Q1 earnings, and the data is concerning, to say the least.

In North America, Publicis Groupe’s organic revenue grew 0.5 percent, but the results in regions of the world further along the COVID-19 curve give some insight into what is headed our way:

  • In China, Publicis Groupe’s organic revenue declined 15.3 percent in Q1 due to the COVID-19 pandemic
  • In Europe, the company’s organic revenue declined 9.2 percent
  • In Latin America, organic revenue declined 10.9 percent

Jay Pattisall, principal analyst at Forrester, notes in the Ad Age article by Lindsay Rittenhouse, “If Publicis Groupe’s first quarter 2020 organic revenue decline in China is any indication for what’s to come for Europe and (the) United States, then the second half of 2020 will be an enormous challenge.”

Denver Prohibition Repealed After 2 Hours of Intense Lobbying

Conrad Swanson and Justin Wingerter at The Denver Post have the behind-the-scenes tick-tock on Denver’s ill-fated, two-hour closure of liquor stores and marijuana dispensaries:

“Denver Mayor Michael Hancock reversed himself twice on March 23 when he ordered residents to stay at home to prevent spreading the coronavirus sweeping the country. Had he stuck to his instinct, the mayor could have avoided hours of intense lobbying from residents, small-business owners, industry advocates and politicians, all of whom urged his administration toward the city’s ultimate conclusion: Liquor stores and recreational marijuana shops should be considered essential and remain open during Denver’s stay-at-home order.”

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COVID-19 Pandemic ‘Ravages’ U.S. News Media

Marc Tracy at The New York Times reports, “The news media business was shaky before the coronavirus started spreading across the country last month. Since then, the economic downturn that put nearly 17 million Americans out of work has led to pay cuts, layoffs and shutdowns at many news outlets… . Finding a sizable audience has not been a problem for publishers. Hunger for news in a time of crisis has sent droves of readers to many publications. But with businesses paused or closed — and no longer willing or able to pay for advertisements — a crucial part of the industry’s support system has cracked.”

The tally: “Roughly 28,000 workers at news companies in the U.S. have been laid off, been furloughed or had their pay reduced. Some publications that rely on ads have shut down.”

Alden Triples Down on Tegna Furlough Strategy

Alden Global Capital, owner of The Denver Post, the Boulder Daily Camera and the Longmont Times-Call, among other properties, has tripled down on the Tegna strategy of requiring reporters and others to take furloughs.

Boulder Daily Camera reporter Katie Langford shared that reporters at her paper and the Times-Call will be required to take three weeks of unpaid time off between now and the end of June.

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Meanwhile, Alden has informed the Guild representing The Denver Post reporters that it wants a similar arrangement there, an issue that is being negotiated at the moment.

Most 9News Reporters, Anchors Face Unpaid Time Off

You can expect to see a little less of your favorite 9News reporters and anchors over the next few months. The station’s parent company, Tegna, announced that most employees will be required to take one week of unpaid time off before the end of June.

Additionally, “news directors and station heads of technology will receive a commensurate 8% temporary pay reduction and general managers and corporate senior vice presidents and above will receive a 20% temporary pay reduction,” according to a statement from Tegna.

As a reminder, Tegna raked in $140 million in political ads alone in the 2018 mid-term election season, a number that will no doubt balloon later this year with the upcoming presidential election. Do not expect Tegna to reimburse employees for the lost wages once that revenue bonanza hits.