The Changing Landscape of Public Relations

Public relations, once considered a prestigious and influential industry, is facing unprecedented challenges in the modern era. In the words of Edward L. Bernays, the father of public relations, “I know how to change bad news into good news.” However, in today’s gridlocked environment, PR representatives find themselves unable to promote their star clients effectively. Furthermore, corporate clients, who once prioritized image building, are now retreating and downsizing their PR teams. This shift in dynamics is evident even in renowned companies like WeWork, who recently instructed their PR representatives to confirm their demise. This article delves into the changing landscape of public relations and the difficulties faced by PR professionals in the current media climate.

Previously considered the pinnacle of the PR industry, global PR firms are now experiencing significant downsizing and lease cancellations. Even industry giants like Disney and Comcast are navigating through a media landscape that has turned increasingly hostile. The Magic Kingdom’s publicists must now tackle daily stories related to “wokelash,” rising fees, and potential involvement in the gambling business. Similarly, Comcast, known for its calm and apolitical image, finds itself dodging criticism from both ends of the political spectrum. The once-lucrative PR positions in major entertainment companies are now dwindling in power and influence.

Media companies, previously infamous for their arrogance in dealing with the press, are now struggling to navigate their public image. Disney, for example, notoriously banned the Los Angeles Times from screenings as a response to critical coverage. Comcast, on the other hand, managed to stay above the fray until recently. Conservative activists are now accusing Comcast of aggressive inclusion policies, posing a public relations challenge for the media conglomerate. Both companies appear to be paying a price for their mishandling of the public’s response to their actions and ideologies.

The media’s perplexing response to “wokelash” has further complicated the landscape for public relations professionals. Disney’s theme parks have experienced a mild setback, as reported by The Wall Street Journal, but this can be attributed more to increased pricing rather than political backlash. The decline in ESPN subscribers from 100 million to 70 million over a decade and the potential consequences of Disney’s gambling deal with Penn National also contribute to the challenges faced by PR teams. With these factors in play, PR professionals have resorted to a “shelter in place” approach to weather the storm.

As major film festivals approach, PR representatives must find innovative ways to promote their stars and navigate the changing media landscape. Static and passive strategies are no longer sufficient to meet the demands of the industry. PR professionals must look for new avenues and channels to ensure their clients’ success. While they can no longer consult with Edward Bernays, they can turn to the writings of his uncle, Sigmund Freud, and draw valuable insights on the human psyche to navigate the challenges posed by the current media climate. The need for adaptability, creativity, and a nuanced understanding of public opinion has never been more critical in the field of public relations.

The field of public relations is undergoing significant changes in the face of a rapidly evolving media landscape. PR professionals are struggling to promote their star clients effectively, while corporate clients retreat from costly publicity efforts. Public relations powerhouses are downsizing, and even companies like Disney and Comcast are grappling with public criticism. The media’s response to “wokelash” further complicates the challenges faced by PR teams. It is imperative for PR professionals to embrace change, seek new avenues for promotion, and adapt their strategies to meet the demands of the industry. In this rapidly changing world, the success of public relations lies in the ability to effectively navigate the complexities of the media landscape.


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