Author - Lecturer - Strategic Communications Adviser

The Media is Contracting. Now What?

Date - March 3, 2020

by Jennifer R. Farmer

If you are relying on media coverage to elevate your work and brand, you will need to develop a different blueprint than what you may have used in the past. Due to contractions in the media, earned media, or media that you do not pay for, is becoming harder to come by. Having a good story is no longer enough to secure media coverage.

Traditional media publishing has been on the decline for years. Between 2001 and 2016, 230,000 jobs were lost in journalism according to The Washington Post. However, the recent contraction in media companies, and the pace of cuts, is mind-boggling. Recently media outlets such as, ThinkProgress, Rewire News, have shut down or are operating with skeletal crews.

The number of outlets continuing to announce layoffs and cuts is staggering. HuffPost announced layoffs in Jan. 2019 and again in Oct. 2019. Vice Media, Gannett, Canadian Broadcasting Company and BuzzFeed have all laid off staff, and Verizon Media, which includes Yahoo, AOL and HuffPost, plans to reduce its staff by 7 percent. Let’s put this in context, a 7 percent reduction in Verizon Media staff means that roughly 800 employees may lose their positions.

Individually, these cuts are concerning. Taken collectively, they are astonishing. According to Business Insider, 7,700 people working in journalism lost their jobs in 2019. This is higher than the 5,000 media jobs lost between 2014 and 2017. And yet, we are still not in the clear.

It is reasonable to expect the cuts and layoffs to continue in 2020, especially given the merger between two of the largest newspaper publishers, Gannett, which owns USA Today, and GateHouse Media.

As a result of these massive cuts, securing media attention is becoming even more difficult. In the past couple of years, there have been multiple times where I have been convinced, based on my 18 years’ experience in social justice public relations, that a story was newsworthy, yet could not get coverage. Now, I am rethinking coverage strategies and increasingly counseling clients to do the same. It is imperative that groups seeking media coverage get creative about how to tell their story and how to educate others in telling their story.

To garner media attention, even in a contracting media market, nonprofits will need to:

  1. Invest in Paid Media. With social media advertising, paid media is more affordable than ever. In an environment where there are more and more job cuts, and less representation in terms of who is in front of and behind the camera, paid media allows you to control your message and messenger. It is important to get very specific and precise with your targeting and messaging as algorithms make it harder to reach your audience.
  2. Create Your Own Content Channels. Campaigns and brands that want coverage will need to turn to self-publishing platforms, such as Medium, Blavity, YouTube, etc. This serves a two-fold purpose. A)You will have direct control over your message and the probability of it being seen and B) you’ll make reporting as easy as possible for journalists once they find your story. Whether it’s the company website, podcasts, or video channels on Facebook, Vimeo, TikTok, etc. the people who move messages will be people who control the content.
  3. Cultivate a Loyal Fan Base. Frequent communication with your followers will be key to developing a loyal following. The communication must be tailored to their needs and it must include a way for them to take action.
  4. Invest in memes and videos. People are hungry for visual content. With limited investment in either a designer or a design platform like Canva, you can create memes, infographs and images that satisfy this consumer demand. For video, your phone may be all that you need to capture great stories; you can hire an editor or with a learning curve, edit your own video.
  5. Ride the wave. As we enter 2020, many reporters will turn their attention towards the primaries, debates, Get Out The Vote(GOTV) and the election. To the extent that you can tie your news story to issues the media is presently coverage and will soon cover, such as political, cultural and life-altering anniversaries, it may be easier to get media coverage. 

Taken together, these tips present a key to better, more sustained media coverage in 2020. Times are changing and we must change as well.

Jennifer R. Farmer is a writer, trainer and activist communicator. She is the author of “Extraordinary PR, Ordinary Budget: A Strategy Guide” and the forthcoming book, “First and Only: How Black Women Thrive at Work and Life.” Follow her on IG/Twitter using @pr_whisperer.

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“I have decided to show up fully and authentically. I trust you will do the same. May you find what you need in one of these books.”Jennifer R. FarmerExtraordinary PR, Ordinary Budget: A Step-by-Step Guide. Order now from Barnes & Noble, Politics & Prose or your favorite book seller.


Jennifer R. Farmer is a leading professional in communications strategy. For over 15 years, she has made her mark in social justice movements, working with entities as varied as PICO National Network, Advancement Project, the Service Employees International Union, SEIU District 1199 (WV/KY/OH), Obama for America, the Ohio Senate Democratic Caucus and the Ohio Department of Transportation (in the administration of Gov. Ted Strickland). She is the founder of Spotlight PR LLC whose mission is to develop high-impact communications workshops and trainings.

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Testimonials and Endorsements

Jennifer Farmer is one of the smartest and most talented communicators I know. She’s passionate, knowledgeable and relatable about her work. Plus, when we spent time together, she made sure I never ate alone.

Ari Berman, Contributing WriterThe Nation

When we worked together in the Forward Together Moral Monday movement, Jennifer Farmer skillfully heard me. She allowed me to be myself, while teaching me and the NC NAACP staff foundational communications techniques.

Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, Founder, Repairers of the BreachThe North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP,The Forward Together Moral Movement

I loved this book. It is smart, practical and filled with personal examples that underscore the author’s central message: there are concrete things you can do to promote your organization with or without a large budget. Extraordinary PR, Ordinary Budget is required reading for anyone wishing to use strategic communications to make a difference.

Celinda Lake, PrincipalLake Research Partners

Jennifer R. Farmer is more than a public relations expert, she is an organizational change agent. She has a laser-focused ability to guide teams to realize, utilize and maximize their collective abilities towards taking their company to the next level. From management coaching to strategic planning, Jennifer will help any team cultivate a culture of success.

Nina Turner, PresidentOur Revolution

I sincerely appreciate your work and having you as a team member. You have helped me grow and sharpen my focus for this journey. Thank you. Love and Respect.

Michael Render, pka Killer Mike, Activist, Rapper and Businessman