ITL #559 Corporate communications as a service centre for the media industry: a double-edged sword

1 month ago

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Offering corporate communications as a service centre for media companies harbours opportunities and risks in equal measure. By Markus Berger.



In times when media houses are increasingly confronted with a shortage of resources and editorial downsizing, the question of the future of journalism arises. The challenges are obvious: less time for research, more "copy-paste", hardly any individual agenda setting. In this context, the concept of corporate communications as a potential service centre for the media industry can be seen as an option.

Collapsing advertising revenues in traditional media can have considerable consequences for editorial teams. Here are some possible effects and measures:

Effects on editorial teams:

  1. Staff cuts: One of the most common reactions to falling revenues is to reduce staff costs, which often leads to redundancies or non-renewal of contracts.
  2. Loss of quality: Staff cuts can lead to a loss of journalistic diversity and quality, as fewer resources are available for research and thorough journalism.
  3. Reduction of topics: Editorial teams may be forced to focus on certain topics that are more cost-effective, which can lead to a lack of diversity in its content. It becomes difficult to maintain effective agenda-setting.
  4. Training and further education is put on hold: A lack of financial resources can lead to training for media professionals being put on hold, which can affect the adaptability of editorial teams and their ability to utilise new technologies and web platforms.

Measures that editorial offices can take:

  1. Diversification of revenue sources: Editorial teams can try to reduce their dependence on advertising revenue by expanding alternative sources of income such as paywalls, events, merchandising or donations.
  2. Cooperations and partnerships: Editorial offices could enter into cooperation with other media companies or organisations in order to share resources and reduce costs.
  3. Increasing efficiency through technology: Investing in more efficient work processes and technologies can help to reduce costs. Automation and AI can take over repetitive tasks and give media professionals more time for demanding content work.
  4. Community engagement: Editorial teams can involve their readership more closely to receive support and feedback. Topics and content, including editorial contributions, can come from an engaged community. This applies in particular to specialised and special interest media, where the expert community can contribute valuable content.
  5. Training and further education: Investing in the education and training of media professionals enables them to keep their skills up to date and adapt to new technologies, particularly in the field of AI and data journalism.

It is important to note that the specific measures depend heavily on the individual circumstances and strategy of each media house. Overall, the challenges posed by falling advertising revenues require a comprehensive and strategic approach on the part of media companies.

Opportunity for corporate communications

There is a need for action in editorial offices that could almost be described as a vacuum. Corporate communications specialists (whether integrated into companies or agencies) should take advantage of this situation. There is an opportunity to expand existing partnerships with media companies and to support them as a kind of service centre in order to fill any gaps they may have in the journalistic field.

Examples of specific services could be:

  1. Research support: Corporate communications often have extensive databases, industry knowledge and expert networks. They could support media companies in researching background information, statistics and analyses to ensure high-quality reporting.
  2. Provision of experts: Companies usually have a network of recognised experts in various fields. They can make these experts available for interviews, background discussions or guest contributions in order to improve the quality and depth of journalism.
  3. Content ideas and agenda setting: Corporate Communications can not only provide media professionals with journalistically prepared, ready-to-print media releases, but can also present a wide range of content ideas and thus support editorial teams in shaping their own journalistic agenda. This makes work easier for editorial teams and enables companies to place their messages in a journalistically appealing way.
  4. Multimedia content: Corporate communications often produce high-quality multimedia content such as videos, infographics or photos. This content can be made available to media companies as logo-free raw material to visually enhance their editorial contributions.
  5. Events and background briefings: Companies organise events, conferences or webinars on relevant topics. Media houses can benefit from invitations to such events and exclusive background briefings to gain deeper insights into complex issues.

One clear advantage of such cooperation would be that media companies could access additional resources without increasing their own costs. In turn, companies could place their messages more easily and gain direct access to media channels. If this cooperation is developed with the necessary sensitivity, it has the potential to express solidarity, manifest support and build friendships. All of this then strengthens mutual trust, which is the most important asset of corporate communication. This could result in a win-win situation in which both parties benefit from each other.

Do not neglect risks

However, this approach also harbours risks. Media that increasingly rely on corporate communications could jeopardise their editorial independence. The risk is that editorial decisions are increasingly influenced by logistical, efficiency-orientated and economic interests rather than journalistic integrity. This could lead to a loss of credibility and trust among readers.

Another potential disadvantage is the dependence of media houses on external sources. If they increasingly rely on corporate communications as a resource, they could further reduce their own journalistic services, as the external source is already providing prepared information. Instead of using the journalists already employed for additional and high-quality research, these jobs will be cut. This could lead to a loss of quality and limited diversity in writing.

However, there is also a risk that corporate communications will simply become an extended workbench for media companies by offering journalistic services. This would not only be detrimental in terms of content but would also significantly impair value creation. These are the most significant risks for corporate communications:

  1. Risk of dependency: A close relationship with media companies can lead to corporate communications becoming heavily dependent on the strategic decisions and economic fluctuations of these media companies.
  2. Lower added value: Simpler routine journalistic work usually has a lower added value. Whether in an agency or in a corporate communications department: qualified employees should also be utilised with the most demanding tasks possible.
  3. Incorrect positioning: There is a risk that corporate communications will be perceived as a pure "press office" with a direct line to individual editorial offices. The independence with regard to the selective choice of channels for earned media could be questioned. And the strategic potential of integrated communication management could be wrongly no longer recognised in corporate communications.

Corporate communications must therefore carefully weigh up the extent to which it should be dependent on media houses. It is important to pursue a balanced strategy based not only on co-operation with the media, but also on the creation of valuable strategic communication services over and above pure media work. This must be independent and strong so that it is not just seen as a cost factor, but as an important contribution to the company's long-term reputation and branding.

Overall, it is clear that the idea of offering corporate communications as a service centre for media companies harbours opportunities and risks in equal measure. Careful consideration of interests and a clear definition of boundaries is required to ensure that the independence and quality of journalism are preserved. Only through a balanced partnership can a sustainable and trustworthy media landscape be preserved. Ideally supported in partnership with corporate communications – securing the future for both partners.

 

  


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The Author

Markus Berger

Markus Berger, Head of Corporate Communications, Switzerland Tourism.

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