How many public relations professionals are there in the U.S., and how many journalists are there?
It’s a simple question, and it often gets a simple answer: PR professionals outnumber journalists in the U.S. by almost five to one.
That figure tends to pop up again and again. It’s usually cited as a data point showing either that public relations professionals are under more pressure to get their pitches noticed, or that journalists are struggling to properly vet corporate and political agendas.
Portraying the marketplace as a dynamic between reporters, i.e. the storytellers, and public relations professionals, who are traditionally thought of as “storysellers,” is really an outdated way of looking at the media and marketing landscape.
Today, marketers are increasingly storytellers themselves, to the point that it’s increasingly difficult to fully differentiate between who’s a journalist, and who’s a marketer.
We’ve been particularly interested in figuring this out because our agency is staffed with many former journalists, including a daily newspaper reporter, a sports blogger, a magazine writer, a wire service correspondent, two TV news producers and two radio hosts. Much of what we do now is nearly indistinguishable from the traditional journalism we once produced, whether it’s publishing articles in magazines or on blogs, producing documentary-style videos, or coordinating and editing podcasts that tell our clients’ stories.
We’re far from alone. More and more companies are creating content marketing programs, whereby they seek to gain awareness by becoming content producers themselves. Rather than only hoping that a traditional news outlet will write about their businesses and raise awareness of the brand among their audiences, businesses are creating their own content that will interest and attract their own audiences.
The phrase “content marketing” itself has only become popular in the recent past, but the practice has been quickly gaining steam. We’ve been doing it for years, and plenty of global companies like AirBNB, Mariott, Red Bull, Uber and many more have essentially formed their own news organizations that produce high-quality articles, visuals and other forms of informational content.
That trend is gaining momentum – the most recent industry benchmarks from the Content Marketing Institute show that about 70 percent of organizations currently involved in content marketing plan to increase their content production this year.
The question then is this: are these people in the media, or marketing? While content marketing bears the label of marketing, is a person who reports and writes an article not a reporter or writer just because the story may appear in United Airlines’ magazine? Is a story about mountain biking that appears in Red Bull’s magazine intrinsically different than a story that appears in the lifestyle section of a newspaper, assuming it’s produced in an “objective,” ethical way?
The continued rise of sponsored content presents a further complication. If reporters and editors are assigned to produce content for brands to be published in traditional news outlets, are they no longer journalists, and now suddenly something else? Furthermore, because the data is often based on employer-provided information, it doesn’t account for freelancers, bloggers, social media influencers and others who produce content, if not outright report news.
That’s why the statistics are misleading for journalism and marketing jobs. There’s a tremendous amount of overlap, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics – the main source of comprehensive occupation figures – are not yet parsing these subtle differences.
Even going by the most recent set of figures from the BLS, released earlier this year, the numbers aren’t quite as skewed as they are often presented.
Yes, the “public relations specialists” category is nearly five times larger than the “news analysts, reporters and correspondents” category, but it doesn’t include the more than 240,000 writers, editors and photographers who are certainly involved in traditional journalism to some extent. Even combining PR specialists with marketing managers and related positions, the ratio of marketers to journalists is more likely less than 3:1, at least by our count.
It’s impossible to say exactly how many of those marketing positions are actually full-time writers and editors, but it’s certain that many of them are former journalists doing very journalistic things, our own agency being just one example.
To at least get a better grasp of how many of these professionals are producing content rather than pitching reporters, content marketing agencies Moz and Frac.tl recently released a report looking at data from job listings and LinkedIn profiles. They found that use of the phrase “content marketing” on LinkedIn grew by 168 percent in the past two years, and that about 6 percent of postings in their sample used the phrase as well.
“As the marketing industry evolves, there is a greater need for marketers who ‘wear many hats’ and have competencies across different marketing disciplines,” the report states, making the case that content creation will continue to be a skill in demand for the foreseeable future.
Even though the lines between all these careers are blurring, it’s increasingly clear that there are more and more opportunities to tell stories, whether they be for old-school outlets, or the new vanguard of content marketing programs.