PR pros, you’re consuming too much media, and your clients are paying the price


Here’s an unconventional tip: Consume less media, says Rosen Group’s Jacob Streiter.

Consuming more media does not a better PR pro make, says Streiter. (Photo credit: Getty Images).

Yup, you heard it here first. Read less. 

Something tells me that’s a far cry from the advice your first boss gave you, but hear me out.

In this industry, we immerse ourselves in different forms of media, from online and broadcast to social and print. So when it’s literally your job to monitor the news, taking on activities from reading the day’s biggest headlines, to keeping an eye out for client coverage, to staying up-to-date on your go-to journalist contacts’ recent stories, to seeking opportunities for “newsjacking” — the more you do of each, the better you’ll be at your job, right?  

Nope. In this industry, media monitoring, and doing it well and effectively, is super-valuable. Because it is so valuable, it is easy for many of us to assume that “more is better” and fall into the trap of overlooking the cons of going overboard.

From that perspective, here are some of those cons:

Mistaking busyness for productivity

If you’re constantly checking, scrolling and consuming, you’ll be busy. But what are you actually doing? What are you creating, producing and working towards? The short answer: nothing. Cal Newport explores this concept of “busyness as a proxy for productivity” in “Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World,” a book I highly recommend to anyone looking to improve their work habits. 

Taking away focus from the high-impact work that moves the needle

At the end of the day, what metric is most important to your client? Obviously, the answer is how many cat videos you’ve watched. OK, actually, it’s going to be your ability to produce high-impact results, whatever, to your client, that may look like. 

General stress and anxiety

With this topic already beaten to a dead, reincarnated and dead again horse, for the sake of brevity, I’ll politely direct you to a 2022 report published by American Psychological Association

A confession: this all paints an incomplete picture. I don’t mean to say that consuming less media is the solution for each PR professional. Rather, I encourage my fellow PR pros to be generally thoughtful and deliberate in protecting both time and attention. With that in mind, here are a few suggestions:

Turn off push notifications

For goodness’ sake, do you want to control your technology or do you want your technology to control you? If there’s a specific, compelling purpose for turning on a notification or two, I’m not going to die on that digitally rendered hill. But keeping push notifications off will help you keep the noise down in an already oh-so-noisy world. Regarding media monitoring tools that agencies use to track client coverage: while they do come in handy, they are far from a publicist’s panacea. Make sure you are using the tool and the tool isn’t using you.

Choose one daily current events newsletter

Let’s pretend that you’ve been elected president and, you ask me, your trusted adviser, for my recommendation for the most effective and efficient way to keep up on current events. My formal recommendation: subscribe to one daily briefing email newsletter published by a major, trusted news publication and, voilà, mission accomplished. Now you will be briefed on current events to the extent that you need to be, and when there’s a particular story that you want to dive deeper into, you can do so on your own terms.

Ask yourself a handful of pinpointed, introspective questions

The kinds of questions to ask yourself and take time to honestly reflect on: am I constantly checking the news and social media because I actually need to in order to do my job well? Or because that’s just the habit I’ve fallen into? Are the pros of checking and monitoring to the extent that I do potentially outweighed by the cons? Is there a way I can simplify and streamline my approach?

There is no one-size-fits-all formula, and it’s unavoidable that there will be situations when you have to closely monitor a to-be-published piece featuring your client or a breaking news story. Those instances should be the exception rather than the rule. 

The key is finding the right balance, determining the formula that allows you to be aware of client-related media happenings, while also minimizing the mental bandwidth and time that goes into reaching that level of awareness. It’s also important to maximize the mental bandwidth and time that goes into high-impact work, like drafting the tailored pitch that will land your client in The New York Times or coming up with the next big idea that opens the door to a high-profile podcast tour.

Maybe that means scheduling one or two media check-ins throughout the day. Or it could mean deciding to reduce the publications you read and the brands you follow. Another possibility is the realization that most of your media intake is nonessential and you can keep yourself more than adequately aware of important news and events even after significantly reducing what you consume.

After taking those steps, there’s a strong possibility you’ll find yourself far more aware of the news and events that are relevant to you and your clients’ needs. 

The right formula for a crisis management specialist will be different from that of an entry-level account executive or an in-house generalist, but PR pros do themselves and their clients a great service when they take a precise approach to their media consumption. 

Not only will this approach help you do a better job on behalf of your clients, but your mental health will reap the benefits, too. Sounds like a win-win, right?

Jacob Streiter is VP at the Rosen Group. 

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