BusinessWeek Sale Puts the PR Pro-Reporter Relationship in Perspective

Let’s not lie, we’re PR people. New York Times, Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek
They’re usually the first top-tier media we rattle off… and we all fear them a bit. We know they are not untouchable (see @jmcoletti’s blog about NYT and Boston Globe struggles) but calling those reporters always comes with a bit more trepidation. Perhaps those reporters are a little harder to reach or hang up a few seconds sooner.

But the news that BusinessWeek is not only for sale, but the asking price is $1 seems to change the media-PR relationship playing field unlike past atrocities. Really? After all that courting, unanswered calls, personal and carefully-crafted notes… it turns out you’re all only worth a buck? Gawker’s Hamilton Nolan first made me laugh today by comparing BusinessWeek to the McChicken, but also made an interesting point about the gloomy future of the magazine:

“It's doubtful that Bloomberg or anyone else already in the financial news business would want to buy BW, because it would probably be easier and far more cost-efficient to build an online-focused reporting service from the ground up, or invest in the one you already have.”

He and many others (see Twitter Businessweek search results) say it’s likely BusinessWeek will actually go for $1. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t want to see BusinessWeek go anywhere. The more ivory towers that tumble, the scarier the media landscape becomes and the more we are forced to embrace new tools and avenues to do our jobs well. We also must figure out how to effectively bring these realities to our clients and help them understand it’s not just about being above the fold in the Wall Street Journal.  Just as reporters face uncertain times and perhaps need to relearn their jobs, the public relations community holds responsibility to re-teach the businesses we work with about how to communicate, especially with the right influencers.

I return to the dynamics of the reporter and PR professional relationship.  We both have jobs to do here. And reporters, maybe you aren’t as protected as we thought you were. And PR professionals, maybe we have a more important role in this transition than we realize. Somewhere, I hope both sides can be humble, meet in the middle and remember – we can help each other.

- Contributed by Jennifer Fauteux.  Follow her @jfauteux